Members of the Independent Redistricting Commission do not need to answer certain questions from those who are suing them, a federal court has ruled. The judges accepted the argument by commission attorneys that its members are entitled to the same immunity from having to explain their decisions as state legislators. That allows them to rebuff inquiries from those who are suing them. But the judges hearing the case set for trial next month cautioned the commissioners they may want to think twice before asserting that privilege. They ruled any claim of privilege is an all-or-nothing prospect. The ruling — and the warning — could ultimately affect the outcome of the case.
Challengers contend that at least some of the five commissioners had improper and illegal motives in how they drew the lines for the state’s 30 legislative districts. The court’s decision, in essence, means that the commissioners who have claimed the privilege cannot decide half-way through the case, seeking to rebut those allegations, they now want to explain their personal reasons for making those decisions.
The outcome of the trial is significant because if the judges find rule the commissioners acted improperly they likely would order them to totally redraw the map for the 2014 election, a move that could alter political balance in the state.
Voters created the commission in 2000, taking away from state lawmakers what had been their job of crafting legislative and congressional districts. Proponents said that would make the process and the outcome less political.
A lawsuit filed last year in U.S. District Court contends the commission broke the law when it created districts with varying populations despite state and federal laws generally requiring all voting districts to have approximately the same number of people. The commission’s maps have a difference of more than 8 percent between the most and least-populated districts.