Andy Tobin has an odd problem. The Arizona Republican thinks he can win a House seat in 2016 after his 2014 bid to unseat a Democratic incumbent fell just short. But as he prepares his next bid, he can’t say for sure what district he’ll run in, or even if, by 2016, the districts he’s currently eyeing will still exist. That’s because the fate of Arizona’s electoral map is currently sitting before the Supreme Court. The court will hear arguments next month in a case that pits Arizona’s Republican-led legislature against a state commission that was assigned to draw its Congressional districts. The commission was created in 2000 in order to stop gerrymandering and create competitive districts, but lawmakers say that process was unconstitutional because the authority to draw districts should belong solely to the state’s elected officials. After the March arguments, the court will likely issue a ruling by the end of its term in late June. And when the ruling comes down, it has the potential to shake up the Congressional map not just in Arizona, but in a host of states (including California) that have looked outside their legislatures for help drawing the boundaries of their Congressional districts.
Here are some of the possible court rulings, as well as what they mean for Congress.
Scenario 1: Status quo. Arizona’s map would remain unchanged if the court rules in favor of the commission. In that case, Republicans will still have four safe districts, Democrats will have two safe districts, and three will be toss-ups. And rather than allowing the legislature to draw lines without many regulations, it would continue to require that the commission create as many competitive districts as possible in future redistricting sessions.
That doesn’t help Tobin’s chances at Congress in 2016, but he would still have a reasonable chance. He lost to Democratic incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick by just 5 percentage points last cycle, and the district still leans Republican—and against President Obama. This scenario would be the most favorable for Democrats, who would have a reasonable chance at holding five of the state’s nine seats—which they did from 2012 to 2014—if they overperform and win all three swing seats. By not pushing any more Republicans into swing districts, it would give Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema a likely path to reelection if she chooses not to run for Senate and would keep Republican Rep. Martha McSally on her toes.