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Benson Seeks Deal In Redistricting Suit; May Mean Redrawn Districts In 2020

January 23, 2019

Arguing the court has “found significant evidence of partisan gerrymandering,” Secretary of State (SOS) Jocelyn Benson filed a brief in the League of Women Voters of Michigan (LWV) redistricting lawsuit that opens the door to her cutting a deal to have legislative districts redrawn for 2020.

Recently, Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis) and the GOP congressional delegation had requested a stay of the Feb. 5 trial, pending a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on two similar cases.

Former GOP SOS Ruth Johnson had wanted the case, brought by the LWV over the 2010 legislative district maps, dismissed.

But Benson, the new Democratic SOS, said she’d like to reach a consent agreement with the LWV that, in part, “mitigates the impact of any past impermissible partisan gerrymandering.”

“It is clear the court has found significant evidence of partisan gerrymandering, and the likely outcome would not be favorable to the state,” Benson said in the brief. “It is therefore my responsibility to ensure a fair and equitable resolution for the citizens of Michigan that would save taxpayer money and ensure fair representation.”

Benson said any potential consent agreement with the plaintiff would only impact the 2020 election, and that the long-term solution will come from the independent redistricting commission approved by voters in November 2018.

Retired Michigan Chamber of Commerce executive Bob LaBrant, who has been intimately involved in redistricting for decades, said he wasn’t surprised by Benson’s legal motion.

“This is the best example of how elections have consequences,” LaBrant said. “What will be interesting to see is if she decides to redo state Senate district boundaries and have an election in 2020 for a two-year term.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re pushing for a redistricting map for congressional and state House districts. It will be the test. It depends how radical does she want to be with the settlement.”

Another outstanding question will be if the Legislature will be given a chance to pass a remedy or if Benson and the plaintiff’s attorney, former Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer, will “cut a deal.”

Michigan Republican Party Chair candidate Laura Cox accused Benson of “trying to rig the system in favor of Democrats” by cutting a “corrupt bargain” with Brewer.

“Jocelyn Benson intentionally did not involve attorneys for the Legislature and Republican Congressional delegation because she knew they would object,” Cox wrote. “Benson also fired attorneys who worked on this case for years to replace them with partisan attorneys that she knew would go along with her partisan plans. Benson should let the courts decide instead of rigging the process to pay back her donors and partisan friends.”

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