DETROIT
12/08/2011 05:13 pm ET Updated Dec 09, 2011

Michigan Redistricting Spurs Joint Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination

A coalition of groups representing African-American and Latino voters filed a federal lawsuit against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) in Detroit's U.S. district court Thursday over newly redrawn state House districts.

The suit's plaintiffs include the State Legislative Black Caucus, the NAACP, United Auto Workers and Latino Americans for Social and Economic Development, as well as several individuals.

"This is a coordinated assault on our voting rights," Wendell Anthony, president of the NAACP Detroit branch, told the Detroit Free Press.

The suit's sponsors are angry that the new districts force incumbents to run against one another. They also note that redistricting split Southwest Detroit's Latino voting bloc in half, effectively taking representation away from those residents.

The lawsuit alleges that the district map could force out of office 50 percent of the non-white representatives from Detroit and 35 percent across the state because districts that previously were heavily minority will now have more white voters, according to the Detroit News.

State Representative Fred Durhal, Jr., chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, told HuffPost the lines of the new districts violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"They have been drawn in such a way that they are not consistent with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act in terms of percentage of African-American voters in those districts and in terms of the district being contiguous and compact," he said.

Durhal said the new district map singles out Detroit for harsher treatment than other parts of the state. Durhal added that the suit will focus on state House districts "because that's where the biggest problems are."

Durhal said state Democrats tried to concerns about redrawing the map during the redistricting process, but state Republicans "were not able to reach any kind of agreement" with them.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the governor believed the new voting districts to be fair and legal. "The governor certainly wouldn't have signed them if he though otherwise," she said in an email to MLive.

The lawsuit calls for an injunction and temporary restraining order against the bill that created the districts, the Detroit News reports.

District lines are redrawn every 10 years to take into account new U.S. census data.

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