Michigan Black Caucus Members File Motions Against Detroit Redistricting

Three-judge federal panel holds hearing
Friday, March 23, 2012

DETROIT - State Representative and Chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus Fred Durhal, Jr. (Detroit) announced today that they have filed motions in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in their fight to throw out the new Detroit districts that were drawn by the Republican majority and that disenfranchise Detroit voters. Durhal; Legislative Black Caucus members; and Melvin Butch Hollowell, Detroit NAACP General Counsel made their announcement in front of the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse in Detroit.

“District lines must be drawn in ways that serve the interests of our residents, not politicians, because residents are the ones who will be affected for years to come, and yet the district maps Governor Snyder signed into law make a mockery of Detroit citizens’ right to vote for elected officials of their choosing and who represent their interests,” said Durhal. “Today we are continuing our fight to demand justice for Detroit and urge that the court throw this law out that will force eight incumbent Detroit area legislators to run against each other in order to continue serving the great citizens of Detroit.”

“Michigan’s redistricting plan is part of a national assault on voting rights. The state map intentionally cracked Southwest Detroit’s Latino community in half, and it set up a circular firing squad, forcing out half of the city’s African American legislators, while white legislators were spared this upheaval,” said Melvin Butch Hollowell, Detroit NAACP General Counsel. “Simply put, the constitution and Voting Rights Act do not allow the state to pick on black and brown voters for harsher treatment.”

The Legislative Black Caucus today filed motions asking for a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the new districts and any planning for further elections for the Michigan House of Representatives; for a revised redistricting plan for these districts that complies with the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment be submitted; for a declaratory judgment that this new redistricting plan does not comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment; and for the appointment of a Special Master to advise the court in revising this redistricting plan.

“The people of Detroit deserve to be represented appropriately in state government,” said House Democratic Leader Richard E. Hammel (Mt. Morris Township). “This case is not simply about Detroit, but about making sure all Michigan communities will have fair and honest representation when the new districts ultimately take effect. This matter, brought about by members of our caucus, will ensure that the redistricting process gives the residents of Detroit and the people of our state a fair voice in how our state is run.”

“The truth is that there’s absolutely no reason our differences with the Republican maps should not have been resolved outside of court,” said State Representative Thomas Stallworth (Detroit). “The potential harm resulting from the incumbent pairings is irreparable, forcing Detroiters to lose four experienced legislators on top of the two seats lost due to population decline during a tsunami of issues facing our city. Between cuts to our schools, limits on hardship assistance, unfair redistricting maps and a proposed takeover of the city, the people of Detroit are not going to sit back and allow state government to ignore them.”

“We are fighting to give Detroit residents their voice back and to have fair, nonpartisan districts drawn that will give them and our city proper representation in Lansing and at all levels of government,” said State Representative Rashida Tlaib (Detroit). “People fought long and hard for their right to vote and we are not going to let our vote be destroyed by poorly and unfairly drawn district lines.”

“Our fight is to preserve the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment, which we believe the new districts in the city of Detroit violate,” said Rep. Durhal. “The Republicans have done their best to disenfranchise voters and prevented citizens from having any meaningful input into the process, so now it is up to the courts to demand a remedy that is fair and abides by the law.”

Every 10 years after the national Census, state Legislatures have the job of redrawing district lines that govern who will represent the residents at the state and national level. While it is clear that Michigan has lost population, that is no reason to draw district lines that deprive people of proper representation. The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus filed suit in December 2011 against the new Detroit district lines that were drawn and approved by the Republicans.