Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Redistricting -- Still no ruling in Harris v AIRC

Almost three weeks into June and we still have no ruling from the US District Court in Harris v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which challenged the legislative district map alleging dilution of the Republican vote. Trial wrapped at the end of March and both sides, at least informally, had hoped for a ruling before the end of May.

Now comes news that the US Supreme Court is expected next week to announce its decision in Shelby County, Alabama v Holder. At issue is the requirement for covered jurisdictions (like Alabama and Arizona) to seek Department of Justice preclearance for any changes to law or district maps that may impact minority rights pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Regarding the upcoming Section 5 ruling, Roll Call reported today,
In this case, [one option is] the justices would rule the provision unconstitutional, most likely because it violates the equal protection clause or states’ rights. Privately, most of the experts interviewed — Democrats and Republicans — see this as the most likely outcome.
They argue that a high court ruling from earlier this week paved the way for the justices to strike down Section 5. Justice Antonin Scalia authored the 7-2 opinion ruling that states may not ask for proof of citizenship before registering people to vote. Voting law experts speculated that this would give the court leeway to strike down the full law next week in what is expected to be a controversial ruling.
Expecting the ruling to be controversial might just be the understatement of the century.

That the District Court ruling in Harris is still pending in light of the potential Section 5 Supreme Court ruling seems to foreshadow increasing possibility that the AIRC will need to gear up to make at least some changes to the legislative district map. As unpalatable as that possibility may be, it's better to be ready for it than to be blindsided.

This makes Chad Campbell's upcoming appointment to fill the vacancy on the AIRC all the more important. I have not spoken with any of the candidates to get a feel for the different perspective each would bring to the commission and to the process for updating the maps. I say "maps" plural -- even though Harris v AIRC only challenged the legislative map -- because if Section 5 is struck down, or even weakened, there may be additional pressure brought to bear for a do over on both maps.

And if the Congressional maps will need to be changed as a result of no longer needing to ensure Grijalva and Pastor have sufficient minority voters in the districts they represent, Campbell will certainly hear from every one of Arizona's Democratic Congressional delegation with their "concerns" about the upcoming appointment to fill the vacancy. Campbell told me he's more likely to wait until close to the deadline (14 days from when he received the list) than to make his selection in the next couple of days.

This situation also makes Gov. Brewer's upcoming decision on whether to sign, veto or allow the voter suppression bill to become law without her signature all the more important.

Speaking of the voter suppression bill, GOP statewide office wannabes -- like gubernatorial hopeful Ken Bennett -- are already trying to see who has the shiniest tinfoil hat going into the 2014 election season. Apparently, our illustrious birther Secretary of State appeared on Arizona Horizon on Tuesday evening to rationalize the need for the voter suppression bill.

Even though the 2014 primary election in our state is still 14 months or so from now, Bennett seems to know his best shot at moving up two floors in the Executive Tower is to pander to the right-wing. At least that's what he must think he needs to do to emerge from the GOP primary.

But this gives Democrats an excellent opportunity to win back the governor's office. The biggest challenge being to get and keep Arizona voters focused on a vision for the Arizona we want.

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