Sam Bagenstos

If you care about redistricting for the US House, you care about Michigan's Supreme Court

Sam Bagenstos

Michigan Supreme Court

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2018 Result: Bagenstos finished in 3rd place in a race where the top 2 vote-getters are elected

The Michigan State Supreme Court has done a lot of damage to hard-working Michigan residents, from making it easier to leave a union to making it harder to sue a business for damages when you’ve been harmed. The "nonpartisan" court has been a lapdog for Republicans with a 5-2 majority. It has direct oversight over redistricting (setting the standards and even drawing the maps at times) and can even decide which citizen initiatives will make it onto the ballot.

Sam Bagenstos is a University of Michigan law professor who has been a civil rights attorney for more than 20 years. Bagenstos received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina and graduated first in his class at Harvard University School of Law. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and was the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Obama/Holder Justice Department.

Bagenstos is running for one of two seats currently held by incumbents Kurtis Wilder and Elizabeth Clement, both of whom were appointed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder to help uphold a right-wing agenda on the courts.  

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Campaign Finance

Candidate Name

Sam Bagenstos (ballot has No Party on it)

Incumbent Judges

Campaign Spending

Total raised: $574K; Cash on hand: $440K (as of 9/15)

Wilder: Total raised: $231K; Cash on hand: $231K; Clement: Total rasied: $331K; Cash on hand: $247K (as of 9/14)

Outside Spending

None reported

None reported

Polling Results

Election Results

Statewide (Supreme Court)

2016: R+44/R+29

2014: R+33/R+12/D+1

2012: R+9/R+2/D+2


2016: R+0.02

2012: D+9.5



Michigan’s overall population is slowly recovering after a decade of sizable losses. These population shifts have changed the political landscape in the state, particularly in traditionally-Democratic areas like Detroit (which has lost 29% of its population since 2010). The number of African-American voters has been on the decline for the last 14 years, and white working class voters now account for 45% of Michigan’s electorate.

Thanks to gerrymandering, Michigan’s state government has been under one-party Republican control for the entire decade. In 2016, Democrats in legislative races received 18,000 more total votes than Republicans but were unable to change majority control in either chamber. The State Supreme Court can ultimately decide on the makeup of boundaries in the next round of redistricting; Democrats can gain majority control of the State Supreme Court with victories in 2018 and 2020, just in time for the next redistricting process.

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