Common Cause Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

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  • Dale Eisman

The U.S. Supreme Court should respect the will of Arizona voters by upholding the Independent Redistricting Commission they voted to create and add to their state Constitution, Common Cause said Thursday.

“The initiative process has provided Americans with a direct voice in our democracy for more than a century. If the Court strikes down Arizona voters’ right to create an independent redistricting commission as an alternative to the Legislature drawing the maps, it will set a dangerous precedent that undermines Americans from using direct democracy to enact change when legislators refuse to do so,” said Kathay Feng, Common Cause’s national redistricting director.

The high court agreed Thursday to hear the Arizona State Legislature’s challenge to the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission, which redrew state legislative and congressional districts following the 2000 and 2010 census.

The legislature is challenging the commission’s constitutional authority to draw congressional lines. A successful challenge would put at risk redistricting commissions that draw congressional lines in 16 states while creating a precedent that threatens the ballot initiative process by limiting the lawmaking function only to elected legislators.

Arizona voters created the Independent Redistricting Commission by ballot initiative in 2000. Currently 16 states have commissions that play some role in drawing congressional districts. This includes independent commissions like Arizona’s in addition to politician, advisory, and backup commissions with varying degrees of independence from state legislatures. Arizona law mandates a transparent process by requiring the commission to hold public meetings and hear input from the public before and after the drafting of maps.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 26 states have a ballot initiative or referendum process.

Addressing the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in 2011, former Supreme Court Justice and Arizonan Sandra Day O’Connor said: “I think voters sent a special message that we want to take partisan politics out of the redistricting process and create fair representation in our legislative and Congressional districts.  The citizens of Arizona have confidence in you that you will draw boundaries that will not favor any particular elected official, political party or special interest.”

The Court will hear oral arguments in early 2015.