Arizona’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.
Yes, 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.