The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments that it’s unconstitutional for a state to isolate its legislature from the redistricting process, citing the federal constitution’s Election Clause. And if the court sides with the plaintiffs, it could upend political districts and election laws from coast to coast before 2016. Hundreds of congressional districts might have to be redrawn before the next election — and several other election laws could be at stake — depending on how broadly the high court rules in a much anticipated case brought by the GOP-controlled Arizona Legislature against the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission. The Legislature is claiming that the Constitution — which states that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof” — prohibits voters from taking the redistricting process out of the political arena.
But the case could do more than just dismantle the independent redistricting commissions that good-government groups have been championing for decades — it could invalidate some state election laws such as those related to voter identification, regulation of primaries and residency requirements passed through ballot initiatives.
“The stakes are actually pretty ginormous,” said Justin Levitt, a redistricting expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who filed an amicus brief on behalf of Arizona’s commission. “This case only looks like a redistricting case if you aren’t paying attention. … But it’s really about who makes the rules for elections. It will have an affect far beyond Arizona and far beyond redistricting.”