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Cass County voting district lawsuit may get a hearing soon

A color map showing Cass County's commissioner districts.
Cass County government
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https://www.casscountymi.org/1361/Apportionment-Map
Cass County's 2021 apportionment map divides Dowagiac between two districts.

A lawsuit alleging partisan gerrymandering of Cass County commission districts could get a hearing soon in a state court.

Cassopolis resident James Pedersen filed the suit against the Cass County Apportionment Committee, which was charged with redrawing the county commission districts. Pedersen, who’s also a Cassopolis village trustee, accuses the committee of illegally dividing up the City of Dowagiac for GOP advantage.

Pedersen says if Dowagiac’s kept in one piece, Democrats have a shot at winning a seat on the heavily Republican commission. But the new map divides the city, which Pedersen says splits up the county’s largest share of minority voters.

"So the concentration of Democrat voters and minority voters in Dowagiac gets diluted by the largely Caucasian, largely Republican townships around Dowagiac," he said.

“There’s no reason to divide Dowagiac other than for partisan gain, and to divide the largest concentration of minority votes in the county,” he added. “For them to say that Cass County can’t have one seat where a Democrat has a chance of getting elected, that’s just wrong."

The chair of the apportionment board, Cass County Clerk Monica McMichael, did not respond to a request for comment. The case is before the Michigan Court of Appeals. It's likely to schedule a hearing and announce the date within a couple of weeks.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.