Campaign Legal Center Brief Urges Supreme Court to Reject Challenge to Arizona Commission’s Redistricting Plan

Today, the Campaign Legal Center filed an amici brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission on behalf of former Justice Department attorneys in support of the Commission and its redistricting plan. 

The brief emphasizes that the state commission was fully justified in drawing districts, with minor population deviations, that complied with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  The plan at issue was drawn by the Commission at a time when the state was required to preclear any voting changes with the Justice Department or the D.C. District Court, and ensure that the plan did not decrease the opportunity of minority voters to elect their candidates of choice.  The brief also stresses that the holding urged by those challenging the plan would unnecessarily cause substantial disruption and upset political stability in states and municipalities nationwide.

“When the Commission drew the map, the State of Arizona was required to preclear its redistricting plan.  That was the law of the land and the Commission was justified in drawing the plan to comply with Section 5.  Our brief also notes that notwithstanding the decision of the Court in Shelby striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, the Commission could still draw a map to avoid harming minority voting strength and such a decision would be  rational and legitimate,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center.  “If the Arizona redistricting plan is overturned on these grounds, more than 1,100 redistricting plans submitted to the Justice Department for preclearance in the post-2010 redistricting cycle would be open to potential constitutional challenge.  The Court in Shelby County held that preclearance is no longer required but it did not suggest that prior compliance with the Voting Rights Act was illegitimate or that a state is not allowed to comply with the Voting Rights Act in the future. ”

The constitutionality of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was before the Supreme Court last term after state legislators challenged the state constitutional amendment passed by voters giving the Commission responsibility for the state’s congressional redistricting after a series of blatant political gerrymanders by the legislature.  The Legal Center filed a brief in support of the amendment and the Commission and the Supreme Court rejected the legislators’ challenge to the Commission’s existence.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Charles Fried, a CLC Board member, and Mark Posner, a former DOJ official, co-authored the brief.

 To read the brief and the appendix filed today in the challenge to the Commission’s redistricting plan, click here and here