- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2019

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Michigan’s legislative district maps are illegal because they were drawn to diminish Democrats’ voting power.

The three-judge panel ordered the state to redraw lines for both statehouse and congressional maps in time for next year’s elections.

“Today, this court joins the growing chorus of federal courts that have, in recent years, held that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional,” wrote Jude Eric L. Clay in the 146-page opinion for the unanimous court.

Partisan gerrymandering has become a major flashpoint for politicians and the legal community, with voting-rights activists saying that piling voters of one party into some districts to dilute their power, while spreading voters of the other party out among districts to increase their power runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal rights.

The Supreme Court, however, has not yet reached that same conclusion.

Though justices have expressed concern over the extent of gerrymandering, they’ve struggled to draw clear lines to identify when a map is too partisan. The court punted on one partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin last term, but has other cases pending this term that put the issue back squarely before the justices. A decision is expected by June.

For now, Michigan must redraw its maps ahead of the 2020 elections. The appeals court set an Aug. 1 deadline.

The current maps were drawn by a GOP-led government after the 2010 census, and went into effect for the 2012 elections.

Though the state voted for President Obama, a Democrat, in the presidential election, the congressional map produced a 9-5 split in favor of the GOP.

In last year’s elections, the split was 7-7.

Critics say those results belie the state’s blue tinge.

“Today is a great victory for the voters of Michigan and for our democracy,” said Judy Karandjeff, president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, which brought the lawsuit.

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