March 28 (Bloomberg) -- A Republican Party consultant testified at a trial over Arizona’s election redistricting that the state’s redrawn maps were the result of a “deliberate policy of underpopulating some districts” to benefit Democrats.
Republican voters, in the federal court trial in Phoenix, accuse the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission of “a pattern of discriminatory intent” by concentrating Republicans in districts that exceed the average population while leaving Democrats with pluralities in a disproportionately large number of underpopulated districts.
“What you saw manifested is that all of the potential voters in districts overpopulated have had their votes diluted and potential voters in underpopulated districts have had their votes enhanced,” Thomas Hofeller, testifying for opponents of the plan, said yesterday.
Hofeller, a redistricting consultant for the Republican National Committee, said that the five most underpopulated districts were what he called Hispanic districts. That would be consistent with an attempt to under-populate Hispanic districts, and it wouldn’t be a logical outcome if it hadn’t been a goal to under-populate them, he said.
Colin F. Campbell, a lawyer representing the commission, cross-examined Hofeller regarding a magazine article that characterized him as “a master of the dark art of gerrymandering for the Republican Party.”
Campbell also referred to the controversy that resulted from Hofeller’s work in helping North Carolina Republicans redraw that state’s districts, a controversy centering on black districts being heavily overpopulated.
Hofeller said under cross-examination by Campbell that he didn’t think that the only explanation why a heavily Native American district in northern Arizona was underpopulated was to aid the Democrats.
In his March 25 opening statement to the three-judge panel that will decide the trial, Campbell said the commission “had to protect the ability of minority populations to elect candidates of their choice,” and acted accordingly in their map-making.
He said the commission’s map-making sought to protect the voting rights of “Hispanic and Native American populations” throughout the state.
Redistricting is intended to ensure members of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures represent roughly equal size populations. Yet from the first Congress, party leaders began exploiting the map-making exercise by weakening the voting strength of some groups to gain partisan advantage, a practice known as gerrymandering.
Arizona has 30 members in its Senate and 60 members in its House of Representatives; each district is represented by one senator and two house members.
Under the redistricting plan completed last year, 16 of the 17 legislative districts with a Republican plurality -- more registered Republican voters than any voters registered with another party -- exceed the ideal population of 213,067, according to the plaintiffs in the case.
Only two of the districts with a Democratic plurality exceed the ideal population, they said.
The case is Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, 12-cv-00894, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).
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