Secretary of State intervenes in redistricting case before SCOTUS

MicheleReaganArizona’s queen of voter suppression, Secretary of State Michele Reagan, has decided that she wants to join the pantheon of truly despicable secretaries of state alongside Katherine Harris (FL), Ken Blackwell (OH), and Kris Kobach (KS).

This partisan hack is the reason why elections should be managed by an independent nonpartisan election commission, rather than a partisan secretary of state.

Howard Fischer reports, Arizona secretary of state wants redistricting plan voided:

Secretary of State Michele Reagan has joined with Republican interests in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to void the state’s legislative redistricting plan.

In new filings with the high court, attorneys for Reagan point out the population differences among the 30 legislative districts created in 2011 by the Independent Redistricting Commission. They said this raises constitutional questions because it effectively gives voters in some districts more power than others.

But what’s particularly problematic, they said, is that the disparity was done deliberately to achieve a result of improving the chances of Democrats getting elected to the Legislature.

Uh-huh. What Howie fails to mention is that “competitiveness” is one of the criteria enacted by a citizens initiative, Prop. 106 (2000), which created the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission: “‘Competitive districts’ are favored if competitive districts do not significantly harm the other goals…” You remember, this is the citizen initiative that Republicans tried and failed to kill in the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

In filing her own brief, Reagan has aligned herself with fellow Republicans who want the Supreme Court to rule the commission acted unconstitutionally. And her arguments mirror those advanced by Mark Hearne who is representing Republicans who sued the commission over the maps.

In his own filing, Hearne conceded to the justices there is nothing unconstitutional about drawing district lines to benefit one party or the other. But he said districts have to be of equal population.

Actually, no. Prop. 106 says “Both legislative and congressional districts shall be equal in population, to the extent practicable.”

As I have posted several times, the argument that state legislative district populations must be strictly equal is not supported at law. The U.S. Supreme Court has permitted population deviations to accommodate other legitimate concerns.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Tennant v. Jefferson Co. Commission et.al. 567 U.S. ___ (2012) upheld a West Virginia congressional map that differed in population between districts by as much as 4,871 people. Lyle Denniston wrote at SCOTUSblog.com, Opinion recap: Hedging on “one person, one vote”:

“Zero variance” in population is not the new constitutional norm for redistricting, the Court made clear.  Just because computers can produce almost exactly equal-sized districts, the Constitution does not require it, the decision said.

After sitting on the case from West Virginia all summer long, the Court produced an eight-page, unsigned ruling that largely deferred to the wishes of that state’s legislature on how to craft the three districts for choosing its House delegation. The opinion can be found here. The new ruling came in the case of Tennant v. Jefferson County Commission (docket 11-1184).

“The equal population standard for congressional districts is notably stricter than for legislative or other types of political districts. In contrast, state and local redistricting followed a “substantially equal” standard, which translated to a rough rule/guideline allowing most maps a 10% deviation. While not a clear cut rule, it has become an operational standard in the redistricting community.” U.S. Supreme Court Elaborates on Equal Population Requirement.

Howie always fails to mention law contradicting what Republicans say when he is writing as a stenographer for the Republicans in this state, which is where the rest of his reporting breaks down:

“The problem is that the commission unequally apportioned Arizona voters with the intent of creating an advantage for the Democrat party,” he wrote. [That would be “competitive districts” under Prop. 106.] And Hearne said the results of the 2012 and 2014 elections “demonstrate the intention to confer a benefit upon the Democrat party was realized.”

Republicans still maintain the majority in the House that they have enjoyed since the election of 1966, and the majority in the Senate that Democrats have only held for brief periods of time since the election of 1966, and not for a very long time. Republican leaders of the legislature routinely shut out Democratic leaders from any legislative decisions, particularly the budget,  effectively disenfranchising a large percentage of Arizona voters. With control of all statewide offices, Republicans enjoy one-party rule. It would appear that their goal is to make this permanent through GOP gerrymandering of legislative districts.

Central to the issue is the claim the commission intentionally “packed” non-Hispanic Republicans into some districts so the remaining districts had a higher proportion of Democrats. That would give candidates from that party a better chance of getting elected.

Hearne said the numbers bear out his contention.

What Hearne is actually complaining about are the “majority minority” districts that have a higher percentage of Latino residents to allow them the opportunity to elect one of their own. Because of low Latino voter performance, these districts are where the actual “packing” is going on — the “majority minority” districts have a percentage of Latino residents far higher than is necessary to make it possible for Latinos to to elect one of their own, if they were voting at the same performance level as other voters. Latino voter performance is dismal.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court neutralized the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Shelby County v. Holder, what the GOP would like to do is to eliminate the “majority minority” districts by diluting Latino voters and adding more white voters, thus allowing more consistently reliable voters, i.e., white Republican voters, to win seats in districts that they currently cannot win. This would have the consequence of reducing the racial diversity of our legislature.

Assuming the state’s population was equally divided by 30, each district should have about 213,000 residents. But Hearne said some Republican districts had more than 221,000 residents; five Democrat districts had fewer than 205,000. [See the “substantially equal,” standard, above. Context, Howie,]

The majority of a three-judge panel meeting in Phoenix conceded the population differences. They even acknowledged some of the lines were drawn to benefit Democrats.

But they accepted arguments by commission attorneys all that was done in hopes of ensuring that the U.S. Department of Justice, which had to “preclear” the maps, would find them in compliance the federal Voting Rights Act and its mandate to not dilute minority voting strength.

Hearne said nothing in that federal law requires states to create unequal districts to comply. [Federal law also does not require districts to be “equal,” only “substantially equal,” a critical distinction.]

Hearne also pointed out to the justices that since the original 2011 redistricting they voided the whole preclearance section of the law.

Waybackmachine3Yes, but … at the time the AIRC completed the maps, preclearance was still a requirement. Hearne is asking the court to climb into Mr. Peabody’s WAYBAC machine and go back in time to apply Shelby County v. Holder ex post facto to actions that were perfectly reasonable and legitimate when made, as the trial court ruled.

Reagan’s decision to intercede now comes as a bit of a surprise. [To whom?]

By law, the secretary of state, as Arizona’s chief elections officer, is named as a defendant in any matter involving election laws. Her predecessor, Ken Bennett, took no position on the constitutionality of the redistricting plan when the challenge was first filed in 2011.

Reagan, though her attorneys, said she felt the need to weigh in because of what she believed were “multiple errors” by the three-judge panel that upheld the lines.

Riiiight, because Michele Reagan strikes me as someone more knowledgeable about election law than federal judges — not! She is a partisan hack, pure and simple. Otherwise she would be spending her time working on those “dark money” regulations that she lied to voters about in order to get elected.

13 responses to “Secretary of State intervenes in redistricting case before SCOTUS

  1. captain*arizona

    steve the democratic party does not give them a reason to vote. in 2014 fred duval was trying to appeal to republicans not latinos. I am sure their are a number of rich old white fart just itching to run in 2018 and will be told by their highly paid consultants to appeal to republicans not latinos as latinos turn off republican voters. so did fred duval!

    • I agree that the Democrats do not offer Latino voters many reasons to vote for them. That is because the Democrats want your vote, not your active participation. They want you to do what Black voters have always done…vote Democrat in the hope they will give you handouts from the Government. The fact the Democrats have never come through doesn’t seem to dawn on Black voters, but Latino voters don’t seem to be falling for the empty promises. It drives Democrats crazy that Latino voters don’t buy what they are selling and refuse to vote without having a voice and participation in the process.

      • Steve, The only people voting for a candidate in order to get handouts are the corporations who want quid pro quo, in return for their campaign contributions. The problem with you, Rs, is that you think you are the only hard working people, and that Dems are takers, needing the government to take care of us. It is a false assumption and indicative of the hostility of the R party to minorities and working people. That’s why Rs can only garner 7 percent of blacks and 29 percent of Latinos in a presidential election. It will be even less in 2016.

        • You say the Democrats are not takers, but I would estimate that 2/3rds of the postings here have something to do with “what the government should provide”. If that isn’t “taking”, I don’t know what is.

      • As someone who grew up in a politically active family, and who has actively worked in Democratic Party politics for 40 years, from Black Churches, to union halls, to picket lines, to moving legislation through state legislatures and Congress, and working on numerous campaigns, this is the singularly most ignorant thing that you have posted in your excessive number of troll comments (999 approved – no you will not get a prize for 1,000). You know nothing of which you speak, because you were not there. You have only your uninformed ideological opinions. As my late father used to say, “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” The reverse is also true.

        • Oh, come on! I am certain that – by your assessment – this can not possibly be the MOST ignorant comment I have made. You have assessed many other much more harshly, even throwing in some profanity to make your point. :o)

          I didn’t have to be there (wherever “there” is) to see the effect that 50+ years of being faithful to Democrats and their policies has gotten the Black community and family. 80%+ single mother families, marginalization of Black males in their own communities, low expectations for Black success, high drop out rates for Black students (even for those who make it to college), large prison population after the breakdown of the family, higher than normal recidivism rate, etc. etc. etc.

          And now Democrats are trying to work that same “magic” on latinos. It is no wonder they are so indifferent to your overtures. You know, Captain Arizona misses the boat on many things, but he is correct when he predicts that someday, the Democrat Party will become the Hispanic Democrat Party, and I don’t think you will like the results.

          • Donna Gratehouse

            “80%+ single mother families”

            Because husbands are magic and black women are deliberately choosing to harm their children by not marrying.

          • No, it is because many of the Government programs penalize the recipients if there is a husband in the picture who can earn an income. Also, if she is receiving money from the government, it marginalizes the males who lose their primary purpose in life.

          • I am just curious…how would you explain this large figure of single black mothers househokds? It is a significant number and there has to be a reason for it. Surely you have some idea why it exists…

      • Donna Gratehouse

        “That is because the Democrats want your vote, not your active participation. They want you to do what Black voters have always done…vote Democrat in the hope they will give you handouts from the Government. ”

        That is a straight-up racist remark, Steve.

        • No, it isn’t. There is nothing racist about the remark, Donna. It is a reflection of the reality of the Democrat Party. Who runs the Democrat Party? The vast majority are white. What has happened to the Black community and families during the 50+ years they have committed themselves to the Democrat Party? Both have gone staight into the sewer. Denocrats have done very little that was good for their Black constituency and done a lot that hurt the,. Of course it was all all done with good intentions, but it failed, nonetheless.

          I predict that same cycle would occur for Hispanics, except that they are a very different demographic. They are big enough that when they find their voice, they will take ove the Democrat Party and I suspect the current Democrat power base will not like it when they do so.

  2. “They even acknowledged some of the lines were drawn to benefit Democrats. Latino voter performance is dismal.”

    So despite the best efforts to flim-flam the election process, Democrats still can’t obtain what they want. And you – naturally – want to see even more skullduggery introduced into the process to favor Democrats in the hopes of “winning” more elections. And on top of it all, you have the gall to call the Secretary of State a partisan hack! If it weren’t so pathetic it would be funny.

    I always find it amusing that you expend hundreds (thousands?) of words condemning the Republicans for doing things you only wish the Democrats were in a position to control.

    • If Dems were really trying to “flim-flam” the election process, wouldn’t we do a better job? Remember, we won Round 1 with SCOTUS. It’s your fellow Rs, including Mrs. Andy Biggs, who won’t let it stand.