Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Redistricting -- final bickering? UPDATED 1/20/2012 1:30pm MST

If you thought this morning's Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission meeting was going to be a quick "vote and it's over" formality, you would have been surprised. By the way, each and every one of the five members of the Commission were present and accounted for today. However, I thought I saw someone with jumper cables touching positive and negative battery terminals together a few times.

On twitter, @azcInsider said:
Partisan sniping as nears final vote on maps. Freeman: "This is a Democratic Party map." Stertz: "I feel joy and disgust."
That was a pretty good Stertz quote. Anyway, both of the Republican commissioners spent a good bit of time today putting their partisan perspectives on the record one last time -- at least the last time before they expect the maps to be sent off (to DOJ) for preclearance. To listen to them, one would think they were filled with animosity about the entire process. After those two had their say for what seemed like forever, McNulty finally spoke up to specify, for the record, that she disagreed with everything they had said and she spelled out her understanding of the various (partisan) allegations the two of them (Freeman and Stertz) had set forth.

One item came up for discussion that had not been dealt with since early on in the process. Freeman had, last spring, alluded to the fact that there were options on how to obtain Voting Rights Act preclearance. He was the only one, to my knowledge and recollection, that had even mentioned the possibility of bypassing the U.S. Department of Justice. The other possibility is to take the case directly to "a court of competent jurisdiction." That court (the only one) is the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Really, there was no discussion of the reason why states choose to bypass DOJ, when they make that choice. Generally, it's because they expect DOJ to object to the plan and hope to win a "more favorable outcome" (preclearance in spite of DOJ objection) directly from the court.

There is no question that such a course of action would be far more costly -- in terms of legal fees. Recall that House Speaker Andy Tobin has already expressed his dismay over the "instability of the IRC's financial outlook." Tobin's dismay is over legal fees incurred as a result of the (frivolous) challenges he and his cohorts subjected the AIRC to. It therefore makes no sense to pursue preclearance directly through the court.

For expanded coverage of the verbal sparring today between Freeman/Stertz and McNulty/Herrera, check out Howie Fischer's story in the East Valley Tribune (with some of Fischer's bias and conjecture thrown in for good measure).

This time, when all was said and done, all WAS said and done. They took separate votes to adopt each of the (two) maps and then again to certify each of the two maps for transmittal to the Arizona Secretary of State. All of the votes had the same outcome with the same count (3-2). Mathis, McNulty and Herrera voted "aye;" Freeman and Stertz voted "nay."

But once Mathis hit the gavel to adjourn the meeting, that was all behind them. Chief staffer Ray Bladine brought cupcakes to celebrate the milestone. Die hard observers chatted up each of the commissioners whose smiles betrayed the relief and (I suspect, even for Freeman and Stertz) a sense of accomplishment.


UPDATE 1/20/2012

On the subject of bypassing DOJ for Voting Rights Act preclearance, the state of Texas this year took the alternate route, suing in US District Court in DC.

According to Roll Call:

Texas: Preclearance Trial Starts in District CourtThe U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia began its trial Tuesday to determine whether it will approve the state's Congressional map.
On the first day of the preclearance trial, counsel for the state of Texas argued that GOP mapmakers did not intentionally discriminate against minority voters in their redrawn map passed last summer.
"Map drawers made a good faith effort to follow Department of Justice guidance," Adam Mortara, an attorney for Texas, argued, according to Bloomberg News. "The voter map is not retrogressive in terms of Latino voting strength."
The trial in the District Court started just eight days after the Supreme Court heard arguments over the new map in a related case. The high court will determine whether a three-judge panel overstepped its authority by drawing an interim Congressional map before the D.C. court finished its trial.
In that initial hearing on Jan. 9, several Supreme Court justices suggested the state should wait until the District of Columbia's trial is finished.
But officials are quickly running out of time before the primary, with the final arguments in the D.C. court case scheduled for Feb. 3. The state already moved its primary back once to April 3, but given the ongoing trial, it's unlikely officials will be able to keep that date.
There are four new House seats at stake in Texas, mostly because of the increase in Hispanic population over the past decade.
Texas is one of nine states that requires preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before implementing its maps under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Last summer, Texas opted to sidestep the Justice Department and sued for preclearance directly in federal court.
Emphasis mine. Texas claims the maps it approved do not represent a retrogression of Hispanic voting rights. DOJ believes otherwise. Texas opted to sue, hoping to get a more favorable ruling directly from the court.


UPDATE 1/20/2012 1:30pm

According to ASU Political Science Professor Jennifer Steen,
When a state (or other jurisdiction) seeks pre-clearance from the District Court, the pre-clearance request essentially takes the form of a lawsuit against DOJ demanding pre-clearance.  So DOJ can pre-clear through its administrative process (the norm) or because it is ordered to do so by the District Court.  You suggested that TX sued after DOJ objected, but DOJ’s “objection” actually took the form of their response to TX’s lawsuit.  
I figure, then that Texas sued DOJ because they expected DOJ to object. The AIRC, on the other hand, has been diligent to put DOJ preclearance as a top priority. Because it does not expect DOJ to object, there's no point in suing in federal district court.

1 comment:

  1. I was out of town and didn't have internet access so couldn't watch the live feed. Steve, Thanks for bringing me up to speed on what happened at the Jan. 13 & 17 meetings that I missed.