Category Archives: Redistricting

AIRC wins final legal challenge to redistricting maps

On Thursday, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge rejected challenges from a coalition of Republican voters that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) used the wrong process in drawing boundaries for Arizona’s nine congressional districts. Arizona redistricting commission wins another legal challenge:

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roger Brodman rejected claims that the five-member commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Law as it went about its work.

Brodman’s ruling continues a string of redistricting-commission victories. The citizen-created commission has won all five legal challenges brought against it, including two that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is unclear if the plaintiffs will appeal; attorney Brett Johnson was not immediately available for comment.

Joe Kanefield, one of the attorneys representing the commission, called it a “sweeping victory” because the judge sided with the commission on all the complaints.

“It’s a broad victory, there’s nothing left to litigate at this point,” Kanefield said.

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U.S. District Court for Texas strikes down congressional district maps for intentional racial discrimination

On Friday, a three judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, once again, ruled that a handful of Texas congressional districts drawn by the Republican-dominated state Legislature in 2011 discriminated against black and Hispanic voters and violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. Texas Congressional Maps Are Struck Down for Discrimination:

It is the latest development in a long-running and racially charged redistricting case that locked Democratic lawmakers, minority groups, the Obama administration and the Texas Republican leadership in a legal battle for nearly six years. Democrats and civil-rights lawyers accused the majority-white Texas Republican leadership of drawing district maps in ways that diluted the voting power of Democratic-leaning minority voters, accusations that Republicans denied.

“The court’s decision (and findings of fact and conclusions of law) exposes the Texas Legislature’s illegal effort to dilute the vote of Texas Latinos,” said Nina Perales, the vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represented a coalition of Latino organizations that sued Texas over the redistricting maps. “Moving forward, the ruling will help protect Latinos from manipulation of district lines in order to reduce their political clout.”

The next steps in the case were unclear. Texas is likely to appeal the decision, and because of the legal dynamics, any appeal would go directly to the Supreme Court. The process of redrawing the maps may be delayed not only by an appeal but also because the San Antonio panel has yet to rule on another aspect of the case, the district maps drawn for the state’s House of Representatives.

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Tea-Publican tyranny: a GOP legislative coup against democracy in North Carolina

Daily Kos has the best summary of this past week’s truly disturbing events in North Carolina that somehow merited barely a mention in the GOP-friendly media here in Arizona. As the New York Times warned years ago in reference to the Watergate scandal:

JackBootedThugsIf political tyranny ever comes to America, it is likely to arrive not in the guise of some alien ideology such such as Communism or Nazism but as a uniquely American way of preserving this country’s traditional values. Instead of tyranny being the dramatic culmination radical protest and revolution, it can come silently, slowly, like fog creeping in “on little cat feet.”

Daily Kos reports, North Carolina Republicans execute legislative coup against democracy itself:

Last month, Democrat Roy Cooper unseated Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, while Democrats also gained a majority on the state Supreme Court, breaking the Republican stranglehold on North Carolina’s state government. Now, though, Republicans have used the pretext of a lame-duck special legislative session—ostensibly convened for disaster relief—to advance a slew of measures that radically curtail the authority of the governor and even the high court itself. This nakedly partisan plot is unprecedented in modern state history. Indeed, you have to go back to the 1890s to find a parallel, when reactionaries violently introduced Jim Crow after a multiracial coalition of progressives briefly won power.

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SCOTUS divided on racial gerrymandering cases

On Monday, cases from North Carolina and Virginia came before the eight justices of the Supreme Court, presenting the challenge of finding the delicate balance in considering race when redistricting political boundaries — and the court’s reluctance to weigh in on partisan politics. Questions Of Race And Redistricting Return To The Supreme Court:

The_Gerry-Mander_EditThe North Carolina case comes from a group of voters who went to court challenging the state’s first and 12th districts. They contend that the Legislature packed more minority voters into these two districts in an effort to dilute their voting strength in neighboring districts.

The state defends the lines drawn for one of the challenged districts by saying it was trying to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act that minority voters have the chance to elect their chosen representatives. It defends the other as based on the goal of increasing a partisan advantage, not on race.

So far at least, the Supreme Court has ruled consistently that race may not be the predominant factor in redistricting except in narrow circumstances. But the court has refused to get involved in partisan gerrymandering.

“If your claim is ‘we were just exercising naked political power,’ well, the courts are not touching that, at least not yet,” observes Richard Hasen, an election law specialist at the University of California, Irvine. “But if the claim is about race, then the courts are going to get involved.”

The distinction is often “nonsensical,” he says, especially in places in the South, for instance, where the vast majority of African-Americans are Democratic voters, the majority of whites vote Republican, and the overlap between race and party is enormous.

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The House Democrats’ ‘By The People’ (BTP) election reforms package

Michael Golden and Lawrence Lessig have an op-ed at the Chicago Sun Times about an election reform package that the Arizona media ignores and does not report. Opinion: Three ways Congress can muscle-up to your voting rights:

Voting-RightsOver the last year, presidential candidates from both parties have ridden to great success the populist cry of a “rigged system” – in which billions of dollars in campaign cash have destroyed the very idea of a representative democracy. The American electorate has embraced this message.

Donald Trump distilled the charge to a dozen words: “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to.” And in differing degrees and with different styles, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both attacked the tight grip of campaign cash on the politics of our nation.

But with three months to go before ballots get cast, only one of the two frontrunners – and her party – has unequivocally supported specific plans to solve these problems. And though the presidential race now dominates the media conversation, it is in Congress, which currently carries a 14 percent approval rating, where these solutions will matter the most. The polarization and paralysis on Capitol Hill, stemming from our rigged election system, prevents legislators from negotiating and compromising to make meaningful progress on the issues that Americans consistently prioritize.

Fortunately, some in Congress are working toward a solution. Just before the national conventions, the House Democratic leadership announced its “By The People” (BTP) legislative package. These reforms, backed by 187 members of the rank-and-file, are designed to “revitalize our nation’s voting laws, restore sanity to the electoral process, and empower everyday Americans to reclaim their voice in the political process.”

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SCOTUS upholds state legislative district redistricting plan (updated)

Every challenge the Arizona Republican Party has made to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) redistricting plan for Arizona has ended in failure.

SupremeCourtThe latest attempt has again ended in failure.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (.pdf) rejecting the challenge to legislative districts from the Original North Phoenix Tea Party founder Wesley Harris. Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan  filed an amicus brief in support of Harris. Attorney General Mark Brnovich had to argue in favor of the Secretary of State at oral argument before the Court.

A three judge panel of the U.S. District Court for Arizona, by a vote of 2 to 1, entered a judgment for the AIRC. The majority found that “the population deviations were primarily a result of good-faith efforts to comply with the Voting Rights Act . . . even though partisanship played some role.” 993 F. Supp. 2d 1042, 1046 (Ariz. 2014). Appellants sought direct review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Breyer delivered the unanimous opinion of the Court:

The Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause requires States to “make an honest and good faith effort to construct [legislative] districts . . . as nearly of equal population as is practicable.” Reynolds, 377 U. S., at 577. The Constitution, however, does not demand mathematical perfection. In determining what is “practicable,” we have recognized that the Constitution permits deviation when it is justified by “legitimate considerations incident to the effectuation of a rational state policy.” Id., at 579.

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