The Supreme Court Wednesday upheld Arizona state legislative districts drawn by an independent commission, rejecting claims by Republican voters that slight population deviations favoring Democrats violated the Constitution. The Constitution “does not demand mathematical perfection” when states equalize population among legislative districts, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for a unanimous court. Republican voters claimed that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, created by a 2000 voter initiative to reduce partisan influence over political representation, overpopulated GOP-leaning districts and underpopulated Democrat-leaning ones, effectively increasing Democratic voting strength.
“We believe that appellants failed to prove this claim because, as the district court concluded, the deviations predominantly reflected commission efforts to achieve compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, not to secure political advantage for one party,” Justice Breyer wrote.
At the time, the Voting Rights Act required Arizona to receive approval from federal authorities before implementing new legislative districts or making other changes in election procedures, in order to protect minority voters.
A divided Supreme Court ended that federal oversight power in 2013, but all justices agreed the commission’s actions must be evaluated in light of the law effective at the time.