The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on an Arizona tool designed to strip politics from the drawing of congressional voting districts, in a decision that could end or expand attempts in several states to address partisan gerrymandering. Arizona voters chose in 2000 to set up a bipartisan independent commission that would draw voting districts. California voters in 2008 approved a similar commission, and several other states have given nonelected bodies some level of control over district boundaries. The goal is to curb the ability of a state’s majority political party to carve out voting districts that make their seats safer. Arizona’s commission draws both state legislative and U.S. congressional boundaries and is made up of five members—two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent chairman.
After new district lines were set for 2012 elections, GOP state legislators sued, arguing the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the exclusive power to prescribe “the times, places and manner” of federal elections.
The Supreme Court at March oral arguments appeared sympathetic to the challengers, expressing skepticism the Constitution supports the use of independent commissions for congressional districts.
Justices previously have distanced themselves from refereeing partisan disputes about district lines, citing court limits on deciding political questions.