As readers know by now, last week, the US Department of Justice provided final preclearance to the legislative district map developed by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission as a result of a painstakingly detailed process which began in 2010.
Most observers, including those paragons of fairness (the GOP leadership which controls the purse strings and the amount of money appropriated to the AIRC) in the Arizona Legislature believed there was no basis for a lawsuit to be brought to challenge either the new Congressional or legislative map. Then, late Friday afternoon (April 27), civil actions were filed in federal court to strike down the legislative map and in Maricopa County Superior Court to strike down the Congressional map.
While it was no surprise that the GOP would continue its aggressive pursuit to undo the will of Arizona voters, the lawyers involved with UNfair Trust (Liburdi and Cantelme in particular) along with Lisa Hauser, did a superb job of keeping the basis for the challenges secret.
I've read through the federal court lawsuit and to my untrained eye it appears the only substantive (but still not necessarily valid) claim is that the GOP plaintiffs (Tea Partisans, such as convicted felon Wes Harris, the first named plaintiff was a co-founder of one of the local Tea Party groups) believe their vote has been diluted by virtue of over populating Republican leaning legislative districts and underpopulating Democratically leaning districts. Paragraph 135 of the complaint reads:
The one-person/one-vote requirement of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not permit legislative districts to deviate from the ideal population except when justified by a compelling state interest. A plan with legislative districts that do not exceed the ideal population by more than five percent over or five percent under the ideal is presumed not to violate the one-person/one vote requirement of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but the presumption of constitutionality is rebuttable. Larios, 300 F.Supp.2d at 1341.The essence of this entire lawsuit is to rebut that presumption of constitutionality.
The red herring we've heard so much about for most of a year now about Voting Rights Act considerations for minority voters is thrown in. But only to suggest out that VRA was not the basis for the results that "injured" Harris and his gang of GOP whiners.
The Arizona Capitol Times and its gossip rag, the Yellow Sheet Report appear to have been given preferential treatment by Liburdi and Hauser. That seems to be the only publication that had any insight on the situation prior to press deadlines on Friday. The Associated Press' Paul Davenport did write about it and some websites picked it up that afternoon, but YS apparently had enough time to ask some more sexy questions and get feedback from key individuals (like Liburdi and Hauser).
ALL’S ‘FAIR’ IN REDISTRICTING WAR (April 27)Nevertheless, either Hauser or the YS reporter was mixed up because Sen. Don Shooter is NOT a named plaintiff in the federal court suit. He is listed on the other lawsuit. Also from the YS:
Mum was the word from both Liburdi and Hauser on whether the lawsuits are the products of the FAIR Trust effort that began – and failed – as a Republican effort to lobby the IRC. Liburdi said he could not comment on whether FAIR Trust members (who have included House and Senate Republican staffers, as well as staffers from the GOP’s congressional delegation) are helping to fund the lawsuits. Hauser said the cases will be filed on behalf of a “different bunch of individuals,” and that “there may be some [FAIR Trust] people involved in different places.” At this point, it does appear that at least one lawmaker is involved. Hauser said Shooter is a plaintiff on the federal lawsuit aimed at voiding the legislative map. Those lines, she said, can be legitimately challenged, despite DOJ’s recent preclearance, which she called “a little surprising.” In some districts, minority populations were intentionally kept out to the detriment of minority voting strength. “It seems more party-related than race-related,” she said of the commission’s work.
FIRST THINGS FIRST (April 27)One source familiar with the legal actions told our reporter today that the primary goal of the lawsuit was to get an injunction against the maps, thus preventing them from being used this cycle. “It’s all about the TRO [temporary restraining order]. Once we get that, then we can litigate the whole thing,” the Republican source said. If an injunction is granted, the source said the attorneys can begin deposing various witnesses – including Mathis, McNulty and Herrera, all of whom refused to comply with the open meeting law investigation. (emphasis added)It's nice to know that Republican sources are comfortable spilling the (partisanship) beans to Capitol Times staff. It's also not clear yet why any of those sources think that Legislative Privilege applicable to members of the AIRC would necessarily be struck down now.
I have not yet read through the state court challenge to the Congressional map (41 pages long) but do see that it, similar to the other suit aims its toilet bowl cannon and fires what appears to be an immense amount of human and animal waste products at a courtroom wall hoping that enough of the smelly stuff will stick. Much of the waste they launch in this suit is the same rehashed bullshit we've seen that was first sent to Attorney General Horne in July to egg him into starting his partisan investigation. None of it stuck to any wall of any court thus far.
A lot of it did stick to the state capitol walls with the Joint Committee to Interfere with Independent Redistricting in October/November 2011 and with Janice K Brewer's failed attempt to decapitate the AIRC. But it's been recycled and pumped with renewed intensity at trial courts in what hopefully will be another failed effort.