Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Redistricting: IRC filing in legislature's federal court suit

On Friday, counsel for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission filed a brief in the state legislature's lawsuit challenging the very existence of the Commission. I learned of it this morning when I saw Howie Fischer's story in the Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff).

I will not be able to read the brief until later but wanted to get it posted for you now.

Fischer wrote:
PHOENIX — Attorneys for the Independent Redistricting Commission are asking a federal court to dismiss what they contend is a power grab by state lawmakers.
Legal papers filed late Friday in federal court acknowledge there was a loss of power by the Legislature in 2000 when voters approved creating the commission and giving it the power to draw the lines for congressional and legislative districts. But Mary O’Grady said that does not make the system illegal.
“That was the intent,” she wrote. And O’Grady said the leaders of the Legislature, who are trying overturn at least part of the 2000 initiative, are “concerned more with the loss of power than the will of the people who elect its members.” (emphasis mine)
Hanging in the balance is who divides Arizona into its nine congressional districts.
Lawmakers are asking the three-judge panel to immediately overturn the part of the voter-approved measure that lets the commission draw those lines. That would free the Republican-controlled Legislature to redraw the lines ahead of the 2014 race — a move that likely would upset the current 5-4 edge that Democrats hold in the state’s congressional delegation.
Central to the question is a federal constitutional requirement saying the times, places and manner of holding elections for federal senators and representatives “shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.” That was the way the lines were drawn in Arizona through the 1990 redistricting.
A quick scan of the AIRC brief reveals this conclusion:
The Elections Clause is an important balancing of federal and state power. To increase its own political power, the Legislature advances a theory that upends that balance using the federal constitution to act as an invasive limit on Arizona’s right to structure its legislative power as it sees fit. For all of the reasons explained above, the Court should reject the Legislature’s claim and enter judgment for defendants.
The filing also includes a few exhibits and attachments. Notably, a nine-page excerpt from Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America as reported by James Madison; and a couple of pages from the Congressional Record of the Sixty-second Congress, First Session.

I look forward to reading them this evening. By the way, there's no way, even though the AIRC will ultimately win this lawsuit, that the three-judge panel will grant the motion to dismiss. This kind of thing has to be litigated and made part of judicial records for posterity.

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