Michigan Redistricting Cases:  the 1990s

In re Executive Message of the Governor478 N.W.2d 436 (Mich. 1991)

The Michigan Supreme Court declined to certify a question on the procedure to be used for legislative redistricting, in view of its appointment of a special panel of masters to submit a reapportionment plan to the Court should the Legislature fail to enact a plan by January 15, 1992.

In re Apportionment of the State Legislature - 1992, 439 Mich. 1203, 478 N.W.2d 437 (1991)

The Court appointed a three-judge special panel of masters to submit to the Court a plan for redistricting and reapportionment, should the Michigan Legislature and Governor fail to approve a law adopting a reapportionment plan.  The Court did not give an opinion regarding the range of allowable population divergence within a reapportionment plan or regarding the application of the federal Voting Rights Act to a reapportionment plan.

In re Apportionment of the State Legislature - 1992, 439 Mich. 251, 483 N.W.2d 52 (1992), 439 Mich. 715, 486 N.W.2d 639 (1992)

The Court ruled the special masters' plan did not violate the Voting Rights Act on the basis of packing too many Black voters into some districts.  The Court found that no remedy of the Voting Rights Act was required because a violation of the Act had not been proven by simply failing to maximize the number of minority-majority districts.  Further, the Court adopted the special masters' redistricting plan in spite of the population divergence within the plan.  The Court reasoned that the plan's objectives were to preserve county and municipal boundaries and minimize shifts of municipalities and voters, therefore justifying a divergence 16.4 percent.

City of Detroit v. Franklin800 F. Supp. 539 (E.D. Mich. 1992), aff'd 4 F.3d 1367 (6th Cir. 1993); cert. denied sub nom. City of Detroit v. Brown, 510 U.S. 1176 (1994)

Plaintiffs contended that the defendants violated the Constitution by undercounting the population of the City of Detroit, specifically undercounting minority populations generally and minority groups comprising a significant segment of Detroit's population.  Plaintiffs argued that the Constitution and census laws required the Census Bureau to undertake affirmative actions to correct the miscount by making a statistical adjustment for the racially differential undercount, or in the alternative recount parts of the city door to door.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision to grant summary judgment for defendants.

The Court first held that plaintiffs lacked standing based on an underrepresentation claim, because the Michigan Legislature is not constitutionally compelled to use the Bureau's census data.  It was not the Census Bureau's actions that injured plaintiff, but rather an intervening third party, such as the Michigan Legislature and Congress that  create the state and federal legislative districts and prescribe legislative spending.
The Court further held that although plaintiff's do have standing regarding their claim that the undercount will result in a loss of federal funds to the City of Detroit, the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact.  Plaintiffs do not claim, and failed to show, that the Census Bureau deliberately set out to undercount the City of Detroit.   The Court articulated that lawsuits are not founded on disagreement with the Census Bureau's statistical method when, as here, the Census Bureau's efforts to conduct an accurate count were extraordinary and that a door-to-door enumeration had not been done since the 1960s.

Lastly, the Court refused plaintiffs' demands that the Secretary be forced to provide the most accurate census practicable by adjusting the counts for the racially differential undercount.

Good v. Austin800 F. Supp. 551 (E.D. Mich. 1992); 800 F. Supp. 557 (E.D. Mich. 1992)

Both the Republican and Democratic parties submitted congressional redistricting plans for consideration.  The Court agreed that both plans satisfied the mandatory constitutional and statutory criteria; however,  the Court held neither plan satisfied the proper balance of the secondary criteria.  Specifically "geographical compactness and preservation of the integrity of county, city, and township lines, to the extent reasonably possible, are paramount secondary criteria and serve important nonpartisan interests."   The Court held that both the Republican and Democratic plans were corrupt with political considerations.

Van Straten v. Austin, No. 291-CV-194 (W.D. Mich.) consol. with Good v. Austin

NAACP v. Austin857 F. Supp. 560 (E.D. Mich. 1994)

Plaintiffs argued that because the Michigan Supreme Court did not force the acceptance of a redistricting plan that maximized the number of majority-minority Senate and House districts, the defendants intentionally violated the Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act.    The Court disagreed, stating that the State is not required to "maximize black political power or influence."   The Court continued by stating that failure to maximize the number of majority-minority districts, without more, is not enough to show intentional discrimination.  Race cannot become the "sole defining characteristic" that determines a reapportionment plan.

State Contact

Mike Vatter
Senator John Cherry
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
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