State Capitol News
4:21 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

AZ's Legislative Districts to Face Scrutiny in Court

A federal court is going to give Republicans a chance to argue that the state's 30 legislative districts should be redrawn for the 2014 election.

The lawsuit contends that both state and federal law require districts to have equal population. But it points out the lines drawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission, created districts ranging from just 203,000 to more than 220,000. What's worse, according to attorney David Cantelme, is that the commission packed Republican voters into several districts. That left underpopulated districts -- but districts which gave Democrats a better chance of winning. In fact, Democrats picked up four seats in both the House and Senate this election.

The court did not rule on Cantelme's contention. But Judge Roslyn Silver, writing for the three-judge panel, said there's enough there to allow him his day in court to make his case. Commission attorney Mary O'Grady said while the ruling is a setback, she believes the judges eventually will conclude there are legitimate reasons for the way the lines were drawn.

"When you look at all the record, it's pretty clear why the maps look the way they do and what adjustments were made, for what reasons," O'Grady said.  "That's all thoroughly documented. We just need to put that record before the court so they can understand the commission's work and what went into these maps."

She said commissioners made alternations to meet goals in the 2000 voter-approved initiative creating the panel to protect minority voting strength and create as many politically competitive districts as possible.