The fact that politics may have been involved in drawing new legislative district lines is no reason to declare them illegal, the attorney for the Independent Redistricting Commission told the U.S. Supreme Court. In legal arguments to the court, Mary O’Grady does not dispute that two federal judges found that some of the commissioners altered the boundaries of at least one district to make it more politically competitive, a move that would give Democratic candidates a better chance of getting elected. And O’Grady conceded the final map for the 30 districts had a population differential of 8.8 percent between the largest and smallest, despite requirements for equal population. But she said the full commission approved the plan not out of partisan motives but because the panel believed it would provide the best chance of complying with the federal Voting Rights Act. That law generally prohibits political changes that dilute minority voting strength. And that, she told the justices, justifies the changes, as well as the population differential. The effort by challengers to void the map is more than a debate about legal niceties.
If the high court finds the commission acted illegally, it could order new maps without the population differentials. That could give Republicans a greater chance of getting elected and of further improving the 17-13 edge they already have in the state Senate and the 36-24 advantage they enjoy in the House.
The legal fight has its roots in a 2000 voter-approved constitutional amendment that took away the Legislature’s power to draw its own districts, as well as congressional lines, and gave that decennial chore to the commission. It requires commissioners to create districts that respect communities of interest, use county boundaries when possible, create as many politically competitive districts as possible, and have districts of equal size.
Using 2010 census figures, each district should have about 213,000 residents. But the commission, by its own admission, had districts ranging from about 203,000 to more than 220,000.
Republican challengers filed suit, alleging the disparities were illegal, especially since they were done for political purposes, they said.
Full Article: US justices could toss legislative maps in AZ.