The state Legislature asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to give its members back the right to draw the lines for the state’s nine congressional districts. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.
Prior to 2000, lawmakers drew the lines for their own districts and congressional races. That year voters gave the job to the Independent Redistricting Commission, promoted as a less-political alternative. But, in 2012 attorneys for the Legislature sued, citing a provision in the U.S. Constitution which says the manner of electing members of Congress “shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.” They said that includes congressional lines. A three-judge federal panel disagreed, saying the voters, as the ultimate lawmakers, were entitled to create the commission. But, House legal counsel Peter Gentala said that ignores the plain language of the Constitution.
“The Legislature has a specific meaning. And when the framers chose that term they were using it, compared to giving the power to the state more generally or giving it to the legislative branch in general. Legislature means lawmaking body. There’s only one lawmaking body in Arizona that fashions the laws of the people,” Gentala said.
There may be politics behind the lawsuit. The Republican-controlled Legislature only challenged the 2000 ballot measure after the commission drew new maps in 2011 — maps that ultimately resulted in Democrats winning five of the nine congressional races.