The Supreme Court on Thursday added 11 cases to its docket, including ones on redistricting, judicial elections and discrimination in housing and employment. … The redistricting case will consider the fate of an independent commission created by Arizona voters in 2000 in an effort to make the process of drawing congressional district lines less partisan. The court’s decision is likely to affect a similar body in California. The Arizona commission has five members, with two each chosen by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The final member is chosen by the other four. Republican lawmakers have complained that the commission’s latest efforts favored Democrats. The Republican-led State Legislature sued, saying that the voters did not have the power to strip elected lawmakers of their power to draw district lines. They pointed to a provision of the federal Constitution that says, “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.”
A divided three-judge panel of the Federal District Court in Arizona ruled in favor of the commission, saying that the Constitution’s reference to the “Legislature” included ballot initiatives like the 2000 measure.
“The elections clause does not prohibit a state from vesting the power to conduct congressional redistricting elsewhere within its legislative powers,” Judge G. Murray Snow wrote for the majority.
In urging the justices to hear the case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No. 13-1314, the State Legislature said the 2000 initiative was a “radical effort to ‘de-politicize’ redistricting” that cannot “be reconciled with the Constitution’s deliberate decision to vest such responsibilities in the most politically accountable branch of state government.”