Arizona Lawmakers Want District-Drawing Power Back from Voters

Jan 24, 2014

State lawmakers went to federal court today to try to wrest back from voters the right to draw congressional districts. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

The Arizona State Capitol
Credit KJZZ

Prior to 2000 politically elected lawmakers drew boundaries for their own and congressional districts, often for their own benefit and that of political allies. That year voters approved Proposition 106 giving the power to a new Independent Redistricting Commission. But, attorney Peter Gentala representing the Republican-controlled legislature told a three-judge panel that voters had no right to do that, at least for congressional districts. He said the U.S. Constitution gives that power only to the elected legislature.

“You can’t have the entity the Constitution gives redistricting to excluded from the process and another entity or person put in its place. That’s what Arizona has done with Proposition 106. It has a fault in it. It doesn’t comply with the United States Constitution,” Gentala said.

But, the judges noted Gentala’s argument is based on a premise that the people of Arizona, as the ultimate lawmakers, have no right to give the legislative power to craft districts to the independent commission they created. GOP lawmakers are hoping for a quick ruling in their favor which would let them redraw the lines before this year’s race in a manner more favorable to Republicans.