Three former California governors are wading in to an Arizona elections case before the Supreme Court that could have major implications on how California draws its congressional and legislative districts. Former Govs. George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with the California Chamber of Commerce, GOP mega-donor Charles T. Munger Jr. and entrepreneur Bill Mundell, submitted a brief late Friday stating their support for an independent commission that crafts a state’s districts, rather than restricting the task to state legislatures. Arizona, like California, has an independent panel that draws the state’s districts. But Arizona’s legislature wants to take the job back and has challenged the constitutionality of allowing such a committee to determine district boundaries. They argue that legislators alone have that power. The case is set to go before the Supreme Court in March.
California’s redistricting panel was created by a 2008 ballot initiative to draw state legislative districts; in 2010, voters approved extending its authority to draw congressional districts as well.
In their brief, the governors and their allies said that “for decades, the California Legislature abused its power to adopt congressional districts, at times adopting highly partisan gerrymandered districts … and at other times adopting bipartisan ‘sweetheart’ gerrymanders designed to insulate incumbents of both major parties from electoral competition.”
The brief asserts that the Constitution allows voters to use the initiative process — as they did in California and Arizona — to delegate the redistricting power to an independent panel.