Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission oral argument on March 2


The_Gerry-Mander_EditThe U.S. Supreme Court announced its calendar for oral argument in February and early March last week. The Tea-Publican legislators of the Arizona Legislature challenging your voter-approved citizens initiative to create the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) for the purpose of redistricting in Arizona State Legislature v.  Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, has been set for oral argument on March 2. Docket for 13-1314.

The related appeal in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has been briefed by the parties, but has not yet been assigned to the Court’s Conference Calendar for consideration of whether or not to grant oral argument. Docket for 14-232. (If granted, I believe it likely that Harris would be heard at the same time on March 2).

Howard Fischer reported last week, U.S. high court to hear Ariz. redistricting case:

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide who exactly is the “Legislature” in Arizona, at least for purposes of drawing political lines.

In a brief order Tuesday, the justices set March 2 to hear arguments by attorneys for the organized Legislature that only they — meaning the 90 members — can divide up the state into its nine congressional districts. They contend that’s what the U.S. Constitution requires.

If the high court agrees, that would pave the way for the Republican-controlled Legislature to redraw the lines ahead of the 2016 election. And that would allow them to reconfigure the maps to give GOP candidates a better chance of winning — and of improving the 5-4 split in the congressional delegation this year’s election gave to Republicans.

But first they have to convince the justices that the majority of a three-judge panel got it wrong when they concluded otherwise.

 * * *

[I]n 2000 voters amended the Arizona Constitution to create the Independent Redistricting Commission, giving its five members the power to draw both congressional and legislative boundaries. It drew both sets of maps following the 2000 census and again after the 2010 count.

It was only after that second redistricting — and creation of congressional maps that Republicans did not like — that lawmakers sued. They argued voters had no right to wrest that power from the Legislature.

Lawmakers lost the first round earlier this year.

U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow, writing for the majority of the three-judge panel, said he reads nothing in the U.S. Constitution that precludes the voters, as the ultimate lawmakers, from deciding to give that legislative chore to the commission. And Snow said the term “legislature” refers not to the 90 elected lawmakers but to the state’s entire lawmaking process.

“Since its inception, the Arizona Constitution has reserved the initiative power to its people,” Snow wrote. That includes the power of voters to make their own laws and state constitutional provisions.

And in this case, the judge wrote, wrote, voters used that power to create the Independent Redistricting Commission.

He said that the voters decided that, at least for the purposes of drawing congressional lines, the commission is the legislature. And he said voters had the right to do that.

None of this affects whether the commission can draw legislative boundaries. But the Supreme Court is weighing a separate lawsuit brought by Republican interests who want those maps scrapped. They contend commission members illegally created legislative districts of unequal population to improve the chances of Democrats to get elected.

That argument faltered before a separate three-judge panel.

I have previously explained what the case law precedent holds in this matter, but of course, this is of little importance to the conservative activist justices of the U.S. Supreme Court who are hellbent on eliminating election laws and the rights of voters. They have ignored their own precedents and changed long-settled law to suit their ideology several times already.  The fact that this appeal was even granted is a bad sign.

A decision in favor of the Tea-Publicans in the Arizona Legislature would affect not just Arizona, but all states which have a constitutional citizens initiative and referendum process in which the power to legislate is a residual power that resides in the citizens of the state. Other states that have some form of independent redistricting commission, the most important of which is California, will also be affected.

The rule of Gerrymandering: “Voters don’t pick their representatives so much as their representatives choose their voters.”


    • Both sides are funded, in this case, with state general fund (taxpayer) money. The IRC funding is by constitutional requirement. The legislature is using taxpayer money because they can.

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