Common Cause Fights for Redistricting Reform in U.S. Supreme Court

Posted by Dan Vicuña on January 28, 2015

Common Cause and Common Cause Illinois signed amicus briefs in a U.S. Supreme Court case that threatens citizen efforts to end the undemocratic practice of congressional gerrymandering. In 2000, Common Cause was one of the leaders of a successful effort to pass Prop 106 in Arizona. This ballot initiative created the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC), a group of citizens selected to redraw the state’s congressional and state legislative districts after each census.

In an effort to end the partisan games that dominated the redistricting process in previous decades, Prop 106 required that members of the AIRC cannot be elected officials or have other conflicts of interest. They must prioritize criteria that promote fair districts such as keeping communities of interest together and drawing competitive districts. Considering the residence of an incumbent or candidate is prohibited.

In 2012, the Arizona State Legislature sued the AIRC in federal court. The Legislature claimed that the U.S. Constitution allows only legislatures to draw congressional districts and prohibits an impartial group of citizens from doing so. Although the AIRC won in federal district court, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Legislature’s appeal.

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the Arizona Legislature, reform efforts around the country to fix Washington’s broken politics would be stopped dead in their tracks. The first result would be to strip the AIRC of its power to draw Arizona’s congressional lines. The same fate would await California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission, another independent entity created by ballot initiative that has ended the gerrymandering of congressional districts in that state. In both cases, power would return to partisan legislators. Efforts to pass ballot initiatives or legislation bringing transparent and impartial congressional redistricting to other states, many of which have America’s most gerrymandered districts, would end immediately because of the likelihood of a successful court challenge.

With the right to fair representation at stake, the solicitor general of the United States along with a strong bipartisan coalition of current and former elected officials, democracy advocates, and academics filed briefs in support of the AIRC and citizen-driven reform. Oral arguments will take place on March 2. Briefs are listed below.

Merits Brief

Common Cause Amicus Briefs

Other Amicus Briefs


Office: California Common Cause, Common Cause Arizona, Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections, Voting and Elections

Tags: Redistricting, Redistricting

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