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Michigan Republican Party v. Benson

The Michigan Republican Party and five individuals who affiliate with the party filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s independent citizen redistricting commission under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Last Updated: June 15, 2021
Published: September 19, 2019

Case Back­ground

On August 22, 2019, the Michigan Repub­lican Party and five indi­vidu­als who affil­i­ate with the party filed a federal lawsuit chal­len­ging the consti­tu­tion­al­ity of the state’s inde­pend­ent redis­trict­ing commis­sion under the First and Four­teenth Amend­ments of the U.S. Consti­tu­tion.

The plaintiffs argue that the commis­sion’s rules viol­ate their First Amend­ment rights to free speech and asso­ci­ation, as well as their right to equal protec­tion under the Four­teenth Amend­ment. The suit claims multiple aspects of the rules govern­ing the commis­sion are uncon­sti­tu­tional, includ­ing the compos­i­tion of the commis­sion and the eligib­il­ity require­ments that bar certain people from serving as commis­sion­ers. The plaintiffs argue that these rules, among others, discrim­in­ate against polit­ical parties, as well as against indi­vidu­als for their partisan affil­i­ations and polit­ical activ­ity.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the commis­sion uncon­sti­tu­tional and block the Michigan Secret­ary of State from enfor­cing any part of the consti­tu­tional amend­ment through which it was estab­lished.

On August 22, the plaintiffs also filed a motion to enjoin commis­sion proceed­ings pending litig­a­tion.

On Septem­ber 11, this case was consol­id­ated with Daunt v. Benson. On Novem­ber 25, the court denied the both sets of plaintiffs’ motions for prelim­in­ary injunc­tions. On Decem­ber 9, the Michigan Repub­lican Party plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

On Febru­ary 14, the Bren­nan Center for Justice filed an amicus brief in support of Michigan Secret­ary of State Benson, arguing that the commis­sion’s rules safe­guard the state’s compel­ling interest in prevent­ing single-party control over the redis­trict­ing process.

On April 15, 2020, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision to deny the motions for prelim­in­ary injunc­tions. On May 13, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a peti­tion with the Sixth Circuit for rehear­ing en banc. On June 18, 2020, the Sixth Circuit denied the plaintiffs’ request for a rehear­ing. 

On July 6, 2020, the district court gran­ted the defend­ants’ motions to dismiss the case. On May 27, 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s judg­ment.

Docu­ments

District Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (first appeal — prelim­in­ary injunc­tion)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (second appeal — motion to dismiss)