The Supreme Court has upheld Arizona’s biggest tool to fight partisan gerrymandering.
In a 5-4 decision decision, the high court ruled that Arizona’s independent redistricting commission, which was set up to draw congressional district lines, could still play a role in redistricting.
“The Arizona Legislature, having lost authority to
draw congressional districts, has standing to contest the
constitutionality of [the commissions],” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “We hold that lawmaking power in Arizona includes the initiative process, and that both §2a(c) and the Elections Clause permit use of the AIRC in congressional districting in the same way the Commission is used in districting for Arizona’s own Legislature.”
In 2000, Arizona voted to snatch the redistricting process away from the state legislature and give it to the an independent redistricting commission made up of two Democrats, two Republicans, and one independent in order to eliminate perceived gerrymandering.
According to the Phoenix News Times, Arizona state Republicans were incensed after the independent commission redrew the Congressional map in 2010 granting a new seat to Democrats. Conservative state lawmakers pushed the state to fire the commission members, but were blocked by a judge.
In 2012, lawmakers sued the independent redistricting commission, claiming that the legislature has ultimate control over drawing district lines.
Undermining the independent commissions would have had broad implications. California has a similar commission independent from the state legislature that draws district lines.. Eleven other states also involve commissions in some form — NPR notes that 152 districts across those states could be affected by the ruling.
The Washington Post notes that during oral arguments during this year, Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared to side with the conservative justices.
The ruling will have had an immediate impact on Arizona elections. As Politico points out, many legislators have been waiting for the ruling to begin their races in earnest since some had no idea if their districts would even have the same lines in 2016.
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