Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, June 25, 2015

SCOTUS ruling imminent: Arizona Legislature v the PEOPLE of Arizona UPDATED 9:50pm 6-29-15

Of course that's not the actual title/caption for the lawsuit heard by the Supreme Court on March 2nd, but that's the essence and Arizona Eagletarian readers have known that for quite a while. As I sit and write this post, there are only two more days left for the court to release and publicize opinions/rulings in its biggest cases of the year.

Most observers seem to think marriage equality will be validated by the court, so that ruling, unless it comes down differently, will be anti-climactic.

The other big one I'm watching, naturally, is on Congressional redistricting. After the oral arguments, most (but not all) court watching pundits seemed close to 100 percent certain the legislature would win this one. A few saw it differently. I'll side with the few, at this point. As I have written since early March, the court must have considered substantially more than what was covered in the oral arguments.

As we wait for this big announcement, lots of people are getting antsy. I expect to write a couple of posts after the big revelation, but figured that one of the most pressing questions for the moment is "what happens if the legislature wins?"

Here's how I see it playing out, if that happens. First, I'll hedge a bit and say the outcome in this scenario is only speculation. However, the legislature has already announced that it has hired Doug Johnson of National Demographics Corporation to re-do the Congressional map. Biggshot and Gowan may be playing coy, but I find it near impossible to believe they haven't already gotten Johnson/NDC to make the final map they want to approve. On June 6, the Republic reported,
The meter's running ... Work has already begun on drawing new congressional maps at the Legislature, even as the political world awaits a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether that would even be needed.
The House and Senate leaders inked a $65,000 contract with National Demographics Corp. in late May. The Glendale, Calif.-based firm is no stranger to Arizona: It did the redistricting duties for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in 2001.
According to the contract, work has already begun on compiling a demographic database to guide the mapping. The bill for the half payment of $32,500 has already been invoiced.
And if the high court sides with lower courts that the IRC is constitutionally permitted to draw the congressional maps? Well, the bill will be pro-rated so NDC is paid only for the work done thus far, Senate spokesman Mike Philipsen said. 

All that would be left is the charade the two chamber leaders have to conduct to make the Republican caucuses believe that they (the rank and file members) have a substantive say in the outcome. Remember, this court decision only impacts Congressional redistricting. How the districts get drawn for choosing your state lawmakers will not be directly impacted by the pending decision.

As far as I know, the main objective for a new map would be to weaken the competitive balance of the First and Ninth districts (currently held by Democrats Kirkpatrick and Sinema) slanting them and the Second district (currently represented by Republican McSally) to make all three easier for Republicans to win/keep. What would they do with the extra Democratic voters in those three districts? First, pack some of them into the two Latino districts, the Third and Seventh (currently held by Grijalva and Gallego). The rest would get absorbed into already very safe Republican districts (currently held by Franks, Gosar, Schweikert and Salmon).

Now, about those probabilities....

Political analyst Sean Trende ran a story, Supreme Court Bingo on the Real Clear Politics website. He speculated based on which justices have written how many opinions this term. Reflecting on his predictions, Trende wrote today,
Conservatives were disheartened by the Court’s rulings Thursday in King v. Burwell and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Project. They probably will be disheartened if the Court rules that gay marriage is a constitutional right, which seems likely. I suspect I got the authorship of the Arizona redistricting commission case wrong in my Supreme Court Bingo article: the opinion assignments make more sense if Justice Kennedy lost his majority in Din, which would suggest Justice Ginsburg is writing the redistricting commission opinion. That means conservatives may well be disappointed in the outcome of that opinion as well.
Do you think Mr. Trende was referring to California's Republicans when he wrote that paragraph. I'm guessing, not. From the (Riverside, CA) Press-Enterprise,
What’s good for Arizona Republicans could spell trouble for their California counterparts if the U.S. Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit over political redistricting.
Before its term ends in June, the high court is expected to issue a ruling in a case brought by Arizona’s GOP-controlled legislature, which is challenging the legality of the state’s redistricting commission.
The plaintiffs contend the U.S. Constitution gives legislators the sole authority to approve congressional district boundaries. The commission’s supporters maintain that Arizona’s voters, who approved the commission at the ballot box, have the right to choose who draws those districts. [...]
A ruling for Arizona legislators could put California’s Legislature back in charge of congressional districts. That could be bad news for Golden State Republicans because Democrats control the Assembly, state Senate and governor’s office.
It also would be bad for California, said Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.
“Although activists were able to game the California system, it is still preferable to a system where politicians pick their voters instead of the other way around,” he said. “At least there has been some competition in some districts, whereas under the previous system of gerrymandering, there was practically no competition at all.”
If the court rules in favor of the legislature, all pretense of Congress being anything but an oligarchy will collapse like an epic Antarctic ice sheet.

BUT... and this is where we go back to the legacy of Gov. George Hunt. The people would have the option to challenge the legislature's Congressional map with a referendum

We will find out either Friday or Monday morning.

UPDATE               UPDATE               UPDATE 

Of course, by now we all know the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the PEOPLE. I find it most intriguing that Mr. Trende hit the nail on the head on the subject of who would be writing the opinion -- Justice Ginsberg. So, kudos to Mr. Trende and thanks, thanks and more thanks to the Supreme Court, especially the five justices, Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan and for the swing vote, Justice Kennedy.

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