Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, May 12, 2014

Guest post -- Hey Bob Robb, WHAT partisan games did the IRC play? UPDATED 9:17pm MST 5-12-14

Robert Robb's column "Judges find partisan games with redistricting map" grossly distorts the federal court's recent decision finding that Arizona's legislative districts are constitutional (Arizona Republic Opinions, Wednesday).

The Republican-backed lawsuit claimed that minor population deviations in the legislative districts were the result of partisan bias favoring Democrats. The facts tell a different story, one Robb ignores.

The majority of the three-judge panel found that the desire to comply with the Voting Rights Act, not partisanship, was the predominant reason for the minor population deviations the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission made in some of Arizona's 30 legislative districts.

In other words, it was compliance with federal law, not partisan bias, that motivated the commission's redistricting work.

Under the law at the time, Arizona could not use new voting maps without getting "preclearance" from the federal government that the maps complied with the Voting Rights Act. As a result of the commission's work, the Department of Justice approved Arizona's legislative districts on the first attempt, something Arizona had never done before.

So what exactly are the "partisan games" Robb says the judges found?

The majority opinion found that partisanship played some role when a change was proposed for Legislative District 8 in Pinal County. The facts showed that the commission approved changes that made District 8 more competitive and also improved minority voting strength. Favoring competitive districts is part of the commission's responsibilities under Arizona's Constitution. District 8 became one of a handful of legislative districts in which either party's candidate could prevail.

Competitiveness aside, complying with the Voting Rights Act played a significant part in District 8's changes.

As the court noted, a majority of the commission supported the District 8 changes only after the commission was advised that the changes would improve the state's chances of receiving preclearance.

The court's finding that partisanship "may have played some role" in one proposal for one of 30 districts does not add up to what Robb describes as a "hijacked" process or the lawsuit's claim that partisanship drove the whole map.

After all, if there was a partisan conspiracy bent on propping up Democrats, it failed: Republicans remain in control of the Arizona Legislature, with comfortable majorities in both the House and Senate.

Robb's concern about partisan hijacking is contradicted by his concern about the Republican commissioners not being able to choose their own counsel to represent the commission. He says this "defeats the purpose of having bipartisan counsel." How, exactly? The commission's lawyers are ethically required to represent the entire commission and not individual commissioners or partisan interests.

This lawsuit provided conspiracy theorists their day in court, and they lost. The court found no conspiracy among the commission's chair and its two Democratic members to draw maps that favor Democrats.

The court found no partisan bias in the mapping consultant's work, no partisan bias in the hiring of lawyers and, most importantly, no violation of federal law.

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission completed its work in public meetings in which anyone who wanted to do so could express their views. Its many maps and statistical tables are available to anyone.

Arizona's redistricting was a thorough, public process that produced maps that comply with the law. The commission did its job under immense pressure, and did it well.

Mary O'Grady and Joseph Kanefield are attorneys for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Paul Charlton is an attorney for commission chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis.

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The entire official record of the proceedings of the AIRC is available at the commission's website. The Arizona Eagletarian began publishing additional details and observations on the process in December 2010 and continues through the current time as necessary.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

I should note that the headline is a rhetorical question. However, if Mr. Robb would like to respond I would be amenable to publishing his response.

However, our good friend John "Private Prison sycophant" Kavanagh submitted comments for my consideration. In this instance, he appeared to be wanting to speak FOR Mr. Robb, which I don't think is at all necessary. He also attempted, much like he's been told repeatedly that I will NOT let him do here, to make the debate about what he wants it to be about. Because I have told him that repeatedly, I need offer no other explanation for refusing to approve his comments.

John, if you want to respond to my previous post, about Machiavellian Democracy, and stay on topic, I'd love to get your take. Of course, I doubt you have the emotional honesty to recognize your policy efforts (and bill proposals) as oppressive when they actually are.

On another note, I have reviewed Judge Wake's 29-page dissenting opinion in Harris and plan to write up my analysis soon. I actually found it encouraging rather than maddening, in part because Wake uses so much hyperbole and non-substantive loaded language that it strengthens my hunch that he wrote it for Tea Party activists, not for Supreme Court justices.


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