Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, October 12, 2012

Redistricting -- possible insight on federal court case

On October 31, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission heads to federal court for the hearing on its motion to dismiss the complaint by Wes Harris and his merry band of Tea Party misfits who claim that the new state legislative districts dilute the power of Republican voters.

It's not so easy (for me) to keep the various lawsuits straight in my mind but I am very clear on the fact that one of them relates to the poor, victimized Republican voters having the power of their vote in and for the state legislature diminished. Like, how in the world do they even justify thinking that Republicans have a hard time getting their ideas made into law for Arizona? Good freakin' grief.

So, when the US Supreme Court ruled last month on a similar case in West Virginia, it caught my attention.

In its September 28 response in support of the motion to dismiss, the AIRC cites Tennant v. Jefferson County Commission (the ruling was dated September 25) as an authority. That case challenges Congressional district lines drawn by the West Virginia state legislature.
Plaintiffs also allude to technological advancements since Reynolds v. Sims, 377 25 U.S. 533 (1964), presumably to argue that because technology allows for legislative maps with equal population, such should now be the standard. (Response at 10:18-21.) While there undoubtedly have been advancements, they do not change the standard applied to an equal protection challenge. Tennant v. Jefferson County Comm’n...
The essence of Tennant and prior settled case law is that claims of vote dilution are obviated when variations in population between districts are decided upon based on legitimate state interests. Those interests as detailed in Tennant are similar to those cited by the AIRC during public sessions and deliberations.

AIRC counsel cited this Supreme Court ruling because plaintiffs in both cases claim current technology exists to eliminate population differences between districts while still considering legitimate state interests. However, the court said:
Despite technological advances, a variance of 0.79% results in no more (or less) vote dilution today than in 1983, when this Court said that such a minor harm could be justified by legitimate state objectives.
Harris' claim against the AIRC challenges the state legislative districts. So, the variances at issue in each case are different, but the significance of technological advances between a court ruling in 1983 and 2012 is the same.

The Supreme Court, in its Tennant ruling also discussed the issue of creating a record of changes and the reason(s) for changes in maps. In the course of the 2011 redistricting in Arizona, extensive record of deliberations and reasons for changes was made. Which is what the AIRC request for judicial notice of various documents was all about. From the AIRC reply in support of its request for judicial notice:
Because the Commission’s consideration of legitimate bases for its redistricting decisions, as illustrated by the public record, is not subject to reasonable dispute, the Court should take judicial notice of such record in support of the Commission’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs do not dispute that they cannot prevail on their claims unless they can show that the deviations “in the plan result[] solely from the promotion of an unconstitutional or irrational state policy."
Subsequent to the October 31 hearing, the federal court will make a ruling on the AIRC motion to dismiss. If the motion is granted, we can easily expect Cantelme and his clients will appeal the ruling. If the motion is denied, Cantelme will then be allowed to further squander taxpayer money by forcing AIRC members and staff to submit to extensive discovery (depositions and who knows what all).

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In the meantime, we are about 25 days out from the general election and early voting in Arizona has already commenced.

To request an early ballot or find an early voting location the Arizona Secretary of State has links to all (Arizona) county elections websites.

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