New Arizona Redistricting Case Gets U.S. High Court Review

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The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a new redistricting case from Arizona, agreeing to decide whether an independent commission violated the Constitution by watering down the influence of Republican votes.

The decision to hear the case comes a day after the court upheld the redistricting commission against a constitutional challenge from the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. The court said voters could decide to have congressional districts drawn by the independent panel instead of the state legislature.

The new case centers on state legislative districts. A group of Arizona residents say their votes are being diluted for the sake of partisan advantage in violation of the constitutional requirement of “one person, one vote.”

The commission’s plan “intended to ‘pack’ non-Hispanic white Republican voters in overpopulated districts to gain an advantage for the Democrats by overweighting the votes of Democratic voters in the underpopulated districts,” the voters, led by Wesley W. Harris, argued in court papers.

The commission said a three-judge panel correctly concluded that the population deviations weren’t driven by partisan motivations and instead stemmed from an effort to comply with a provision of the Voting Rights Act.

That provision, since undercut by a 2013 Supreme Court decision, required federal preclearance of new districts to protect minority voting rights.

Voting Rights Act

A desire to comply with the Voting Rights Act “is a rational state policy capable of justifying minor deviations in population,” the commission argued.

The case becomes the second Supreme Court test of the “one person, one vote” principle during the nine-month term that starts in October. The court previously agreed to hear a Texas case concerning whether states can allocate legislative seats on the basis of total population, rather than the number of eligible voters.

The new case is Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, 14-232.

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