Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Redistricting -- AIRC Motion for SCOTUS to Affirm or Dismiss, Harris case

Today the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission filed its Motion to Affirm or Dismiss in the Supreme Court of the United States in Harris v AIRC.

The 102-page document has 55 pages of preliminaries, then the motion, followed by 47 pages of exhibits/appendices.

For a document like this, I'm not sure I could do it justice to summarize it briefly. Instead, here's an excerpt for a teaser of sorts.
Despite Appellants’ efforts to reframe the factbound per curiam order into a new case posing broad legal questions, the appeal does not present any substantial federal issues meriting this Court’s attention. Appellee Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission therefore respectfully requests that the Court summarily affirm the decision below.
Appellants raise far-reaching issues that have little to do with the actual findings and ruling on appeal. They brought this suit on the theory (and told the court they would prove at trial) that “a policy of increasing the Democratic Party’s strength” caused the minor population deviations – an average overall deviation of 2.2 percent and a maximum deviation of 8.8 percent – in Arizona’s legislative redistricting plan. Doc. 176 at 2. After a five-day trial and review of transcripts of the Commission’s many public meetings, the district court found that was not true and that “compliance with federal voting rights law was the predominant reason for the deviations.” J.S. App. 6a. The court did not need to decide whether political motivations are illegitimate redistricting considerations because even assuming they are, Appellants could not prove their claim. At most, “some of the commissioners were motivated in part in some of the linedrawing decisions by a desire to improve Democratic prospects.” Id. The limited extent of that partisan motive does not indicate any constitutional infirmity. If it did, Appellants’ argument could result in overturning virtually every state’s legislative redistricting plan, an untenable and constitutionally unacceptable affront to State sovereignty.
The district court held that the Commission’s desire to comply with the Voting Rights Act, including the obligation to obtain preclearance, is a rational state policy capable of justifying minor deviations in population. J.S. App. 65a-72a. The Court should summarily affirm on the same narrow grounds. Appellants’ argument would require the Court to hold that compliance with federal law, although mandatory, was irrational. It would also clash with this Court’s decisions holding that non-mandatory policy decisions to respect county lines or protect incumbent politicians can justify deviations that go far beyond the minor ones at issue here. See, e.g., Brown v. Thomson, 462 U.S. 835, 847-48 (1983) (holding that state policy of adhering to county boundaries justified underpopulating district by 60 percent); Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 740 (1983) (listing “avoiding contests between incumbent[s]” among policies that “might justify some variance” in congressional districts). The fact that this Court’s subsequent decision in Shelby County v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612 (2013), removes Arizona’s obligation to seek preclearance does not render the Commission’s efforts to obtain preclearance irrational or illegitimate.
This is not the case for the Court to decide whether partisan motivations can invalidate a map with minor population deviations. The district court rejected Appellants’ partisanship arguments based on the evidence. This Court should summarily affirm.
I expect that I shall read through this Motion and at least some of the appendices in due course (and well before oral arguments are heard before the court (most likely the last week of February 2015)).

In the meantime, for your reading pleasure (if you're a political nerd), the link to the entire 102-page document is embedded at the top of this blog post.


Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century.


  1. When it comes to the VRA, the Roberts' Court has shown nothing but disdain, but in this instance I think even the "Conservative Five" would be hard pressed to go against the AIRC.

  2. Arizona EagletarianNovember 14, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    I hope you're right. :)