Before the Supreme Court’s decision in the Arizona redistricting case, electoral reform efforts had been in limbo. But Monday’s 5-4 ruling is a major victory for those who support citizen redistricting commissions as a way to counter the polarization and partisan gerrymandering that result from politicians drawing their own legislative districts. In 2000, Arizona voters passed a proposition to shift authority for drawing legislative districts from state lawmakers to a five-member independent commission. Republican legislators who didn’t like the districts that the commission drew after the 2010 Census brought suit in 2012, arguing that it was unconstitutional for anyone except lawmakers to draw congressional districts. In her opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dispatched this idea. “Arizona voters sought to restore ‘the core principle of republican government,’ namely, ‘that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,’ ” she wrote.
The animating principle of our Constitution is that “the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.” She noted that the court has recognized that partisan gerrymanders are incompatible with democratic principles.
Two members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission are chosen by Republican leaders in the state legislature and two by Democrats; the chairman of the commission, who must not be registered with either major political party, is chosen by the other four. Members of the Arizona legislature are prohibited from serving on the commission.