Groups Support Voter-Passed Arizona Redistricting Commission in Supreme Court Challenge by Legislature
Today in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, groups advocating representative democracy filed an amici brief in the United States Supreme Court in support of an Arizona state constitutional amendment passed by voters giving an independent commission responsibility over congressional redistricting. The law is being challenged by the Arizona State Legislature, which engaged in a series of extreme political gerrymanders that led voters to approve the creation of an independent redistricting commission.
"The fact that this law is being challenged by legislators who desire to rig the process once again speaks volumes about why Arizonans voted to put that responsibility into the hands of an independent commission," said J. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center Associate Executive Director. "The Constitution guarantees that Members of Congress will be chosen 'by the People of the several States' -- not that Members of Congress or legislators will handpick their constituents in the several States. As we note in our brief, the U.S. Supreme Court 'has made clear that it believes extreme partisan gerrymandering is a significant problem that amounts to disruption of our constitutional order.' But a practicable standard for adjudication has remained elusive, so voters like those in Arizona have had no recourse but to take matters into their own hands."
The challenge is being brought under the elections-clause of the U.S. Constitution which states in part that "[t]he times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof." In February 2014, a three-judge federal court in Arizona ruled that when voters acted to amend the state's constitution and create the commission, they were acting in the capacity of the Legislature.
While the case could be decided narrowly, a broader ruling could impact a number of similar state redistricting commissions across the country. The redistricting commissions in most of the states were created by the legislatures, but in California voters passed a similar state constitutional amendment in the face of stiff opposition from legislators.
The groups joining in the brief in support of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission include the Campaign Legal Center, the League of Women Voters of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundations, Common Cause and Democracy 21. The Campaign Legal Center gratefully acknowledges the work of attorneys at Jenner & Block LLP who serve as lead counsel for our amici group.
To read the brief, click here.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case on March 2, 2015.