Arizona voters took redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature 17 years ago, but that could be in jeopardy, depending on the outcome of a gerrymandering case that the U.S. Supreme Court has just agreed to hear.
On Monday, the high court accepted a case from Wisconsin in which Republican state lawmakers are accused of drawing highly partisan district maps to protect their majority.
In 2000, Arizonans passed a ballot initiative that established an independent redistricting commission.
Robyn Prud’homme-Bauer, co-director of the Arizona League of Women Voters, says lawmakers have been fighting the commission ever since and would likely move against it if the high court upholds Wisconsin’s system.
“I suspect there will be legislation within the state Legislature to amend or overturn or take back to the ballot whether we should have an independent redistricting commission,” she states.
The Supreme Court case could result in new federal criteria for how districts are redrawn after the next census in 2020. As it stands now, in many states, lawmakers have created districts intended to reduce the minority party’s success either by packing them into a small number of districts or by spreading them out in multiple districts to dilute their influence.
Republicans control the state government in 25 states, compared with seven for Democrats.
Arizona’s commission is made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent. Prud’homme-Bauer says it was designed to let voters choose their lawmakers, and not the other way around.
“It has definitely taken the party politics out of the decision making and has allowed for redistricting plans that meet goals that they outline: compactness, competitiveness, equal population as best as it can,” she states.
Prud’homme-Bauer adds that since 2000, there have not been big changes in the composition of the state Legislature, but several congressional districts have become more competitive, and in the long run, any changes to redistricting could affect which party controls the House of Representatives.
By Suzanne Potter
Public News Service – AZ