The U.S. Department of Justice has approved Michigan's Republican-designed redistricting plan, despite complaints from Democrats and a lawsuit that alleges some of the newly-drawn districts violate the Voting Rights Act.
Michigan must have any changes to districts and voting laws "pre-cleared" by the Justice Department because of the state's history of discrimination in elections.
But despite the DOJ's decision, a coalition of groups will move forward with its challenge to the new state House district maps.
In December, the Detroit branch of the NAACP, the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, Latino Americans for Social and Economic Development (LASED) filed a lawsuit alleging Voting Rights Act violations in the redrawn state House districts. The plaintiffs say the new maps unfairly divide Detroit voters, combining sections of the city with surrounding suburbs.
The coalition charges Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson with approving a discriminatory redistricting process. Members say the new districts will pit minority candidates in Detroit against each other.
A spokeswoman for the DOJ declined to comment further on the redistricting approval or the lawsuit.
Opponents of the new districts are especially concerned about Southwest Detroit's Latino population, which the map splits between the new 5th and 6th state House districts.
State Rep. Rashida Tlaib currently represents Southwest Detroit in Michigan's 12th district but will now run for reelection in the new 6th district. The new lines mean Tlaib's constituent base will drop from 45 percent Latino to 15 percent.
"It dilutes the Latino vote to the point where I'm seriously worried there will not be one state House seat that will be the voice for the growing Latino community in Michigan," she told HuffPost.
To compare the new redistricting map with the current districts, move the slider from right to left.
Tlaib said state Democrats presented a redistricting plan that placed nearly 50 percent of Latino residents in one district. She added she supports the lawsuit challenging the state House redistricting.
Tlaib has also been vocal about changes to the Detroit area's congressional districts.
"It looks like somebody was intoxicated when they put that together," she said. "It really does dilute and decrease the level of power that we have as voters to make sure that the right person is representing us."
Michigan lost one U.S. House seat due to a decline in population in the last census, and State republicans have drawn charges of gerrymandering Detroit area districts to make up for the loss. The new 14th district was named one of the "Top Five Ugliest Districts" in the nation in a Roll Call survey. It winds around Detroit to include half of Southwest Detroit, the riverfront, Grosse Pointe and many of the city's northern suburbs.
The new congressional districts spell trouble for metro Detroit's incumbent Democratic congressional representatives, who are already planning some district swapping.
Veteran Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat who currently represents Michigan's 14th district, will run in the new 13th district, which encompasses a good chunk of Detroit. Rather than take on Conyers in his old district, incumbent Rep. Gary Peters will challenge first-term incumbent Rep. Hansen Clarke for the 14th district seat.
Clarke and Peters face primary opposition from Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and former state Rep. Mary Waters, who announced her bid for the seat on Tuesday.
Clarke, Peters and Conyers were unavailable for comment Wednesday.