March 29 (Bloomberg) -- Republicans seeking to void Arizona’s redrawn voter districts over claims they favor Democrats were presented with a “smoking gun” at trial when a witness testified the plan wasn’t accurate, a lawyer for the Republicans said.
A witness for the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission admitted that a pre-clearance submission of the redistricting plan to the U.S. Department of Justice “just wasn’t right,” David Cantelme said in closing arguments today at the federal trial in Phoenix.
The witness, Stanford University professor Bruce Cain, testified that the commission, in its presentation to the Justice Department, reported the redistricting plan would create six Hispanic districts and one Native American district when in fact it provides for nine Hispanic districts, Cantelme said in court today.
Cain’s admission was the “smoking gun” that proved “bad faith on the part of the commission,” Cantelme said.
The commission’s representation of six Hispanic districts was a misdirection and “Professor Cain admitted that,” Cantelme said.
The lawsuit accuses the 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.
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.
Colin F. Campbell, a lawyer representing the commission, said in his closing argument that the commission made clear to the Justice Department that the plan included “at least” six Hispanic districts and one Native American district, “but that there could be three others depending on several factors.”
“There was no effort whatsoever to deceive,” Campbell said. Cantelme’s claim that the commission “lied to the DOJ is completely untrue,” Campbell said. “They told them what they were doing, and told them about all the districts.”
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 Republican plaintiffs in the case.
Only two of the districts with a Democratic plurality exceed the ideal population, they said.
“In creating districts, the commission had to follow the Voting Rights Act,” Campbell said. “It is the law and protects minority populations that have been discriminated against in the past.”
The case is Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, 12-cv-00894, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).
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