When judges announce the outcome of a gerrymandering trial later this month, their ruling could potentially redraw dozens of legislative and congressional districts across Michigan. Sparked by a lawsuit brought by Michigan’s League of Women Voters, the trial lasted from Feb. 5-7 and called on the testimony of both experts claiming that the districts illegally diluted residents’ votes and Republican officials defending their redistricting practices.
Plaintiffs in the trial argue that gerrymandering, the practice of redrawing district lines to keep a particular party in power, has given Michigan Republicans an unfair advantage since the party met in private after the 2010 Census. According to the allegations, Republicans held this meeting to form political maps that would maintain their party’s power. Recently uncovered emails from 2011 between various Republicans seem to support the claim, with one Republican staffer bragging about strategically concentrating “Dem garbage” into four districts in Southeast Michigan.
In addition to the email evidence, one expert witness testified that gerrymandering is worse in Michigan than in almost any other state. Republican witnesses pushed back with assertions that lawmakers were careful to follow legal guidelines back in 2011 and that private meetings regarding redistricting are not uncommon for either party. As the League of Women Voters explained during the trial, gerrymandering damages democracy. Partisan redistricting manipulates competition in elections to keep incumbents in power, even if the popular vote would otherwise drive them out of office.
For now, the League can only wait to see whether the panel of judges that presided over the trial will agree with their allegations. A ruling will most likely come after Feb. 22, and it may bring substantial changes that many frustrated voters want.