For more than six years, the panel charged with drawing Arizona’s political boundaries was the target of criticism, protests and repeated lawsuits. It even suffered a break-in at its Capitol Mall office. But despite the headwinds, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission triumphed in the key legal and policy battles it faced. After closing its doors for good late last month, it leaves behind a legacy that ensures it will continue as Arizona’s political mapmaker, even as skeptics doubt the value of letting an independent panel, rather than lawmakers, draw political boundaries. That skepticism came with a tab paid by taxpayers: $7.3 million in legal and travel costs as the commission defended itself in five legal battles, plus nearly $400,000 to cover legal costs incurred by the Legislature, the governor and the attorney general as they went to court to question the commission’s work.
That work has helped shape Arizona’s political landscape for the past three elections, and it will continue through 2020, when a new commission will be seated after that year’s U.S. census.
Both in the courts, as well as the court of public opinion, the commission has spent the better part of this decade defending the legislative and congressional lines it drew in 2011.
The commission’s legal record is spotless: Five wins in five cases, including two cases that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.