State Capitol News
2:11 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Lawmakers Want to Void Law Creating Redistricting Commission

State lawmakers are asking federal judges to void part of a voter-approved measure creating the Independent Redistricting Commission.

The 2000 initiative took the decennial task of drawing legislative and congressional lines away from lawmakers and gave it to the five-member panel. But in a lawsuit earlier this year, Republican lawmakers pointed out the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution says the LEGISLATURE determines how members of Congress are elected. Attorneys for the commission countered that voters, as ultimate lawmakers, are free to make the panel a legislative body for purposes of redistricting. But in a new filing, House staff attorney Peter Gentala scoffed at that contention.

"That language is clear," Gentala said. "There's nothing confusing about it. And the Supreme Court has looked at the Elections Clause on a number of occasions. And each time the Supreme Court has said that the term 'Legislature' has one meaning. It means the representative body that makes the laws of the state."

Commission attorneys also say the challenge comes too late, a dozen years after voters approved the change. Gentala said the delay is irrelevant.

"The Constitution does not become a dead letter through inaction by a government official that has been given authority by the Constitution," he said.

Any ruling would not affect this year's races but instead apply to elections in 2014 and beyond.