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For The Week Of November 28, 2021 Through December 4, 2021

Redistricting Critic Now Advocating For Mass Lawsuits Against Body

By Ben Solis
Staff Writer
Posted: December 2, 2021 1:11 PM

If there's one thing you can count on when watching meetings of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, it's a public comment from James Gallant, who has given feedback at nearly every meeting since the body was created.

Mr. Gallant first called out the commission for its lack of adherence to Robert's Rules of Order – which is certainly up for debate. He has also expressed other grievances from the way they've conducted their business to the board game approach they took to drawing the proposed maps.

His latest gripes have been centered on the transparency standards of the commission, complaints that appeared to hold more weight after the commission discussed in a closed session two memos that other critics have said should have been discussed in open session. Those memos remain under attorney client privilege and the commission is slated to discuss releasing those documents today.

But if a letter sent to the commission by its four attorneys is any indication of whether they'll do so, it is unlikely that the commission will be moved to release them even under the intense public pressure it is now facing .

At first, Mr. Gallant's call for the commission to be more transparent was shared by simply by other ICRC observers, members of the press and some attorneys who have also been following the process. But in recent weeks, both Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said they believe the commission should release the memos and that the commission should not have discussed them in closed session.

Mr. Gallant has since changed tactics from simply calling out the commission to now advocating that citizens sue them over their mapping choices, decisions made within the context of regular business and now, its lack of transparency as it regards the closed session.

During public comment Thursday morning, Mr. Gallant cited an opinion piece in the Detroit Free Press authored by the Michigan Press Association Board of Directors demanding that the commission adhere to a higher bar of transparency.

Mr. Gallant called for mass lawsuits on the matter.

"The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has the legal right to defy the constitutional mandates until those efforts are overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court. This is that 'change the rules, attempting to reboot the system thing,'" he said. "And you all know my concerns. So as a public service, I'm urging anyone who wants to challenge the decisions or the maps of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to go to the Michigan Supreme Court's website self-help section. There are approved forms with instructions. The filing fee is $325 plus process service fees for approximately $500. Anyone can bring their issues to the Michigan Supreme Court directly in challenge (of) any of the decisions or the maps of this commission. So good luck with all that and I would be happy to coordinate with some new folks if you'd like to get together and work that out."

It is unclear if anyone will heed his call, but if appearances during Thursday public comment from Detroit News Editor Gary Miles and Detroit Free Editor Peter Bhatia are any indication, we could very well see a legal challenge of this nature arise from residents, members of the press or both. Add the fact that Mr. Gallant has become a hero of sorts to those calling out the commission's maps and the way they've conducted meetings, as evidenced by the number of individuals who began to routinely address issues similar issues during public comment much as he did, it is now a clearer possibility.

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