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Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona. Independent Redistricting Commission

Justia Summary

Under Arizona’s Constitution, voters may, by ballot initiative, adopt laws and constitutional amendments and may approve or disapprove measures passed by the legislature. Proposition 106 (2000), an initiative aimed preventing gerrymandering, amended Arizona’s Constitution, removing redistricting authority from the legislature and vesting it in an independent commission. After the 2010 census, the commission adopted redistricting maps for congressional and state legislative districts. The Arizona Legislature challenged the map for congressional districts, arguing violation of the Elections Clause of the U. S. Constitution, which provides:The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations. The district court held that the Arizona Legislature had standing to sue, but rejected its complaint on the merits. The Supreme Court affirmed. The Elections Clause and 2 U.S.C. 2a(c) permit the use of a commission to adopt congressional districts. Redistricting is a legislative function to be performed in accordance with state prescriptions for lawmaking, which may include referendum and the Governor’s veto. It is characteristic of the federal system that states retain autonomy to establish their own governmental processes free from incursion by the federal government. The Framers may not have imagined the modern initiative process in which the people’s legislative power is coextensive with the state legislature’s authority, but the invention of the initiative was consistent with the Constitution’s conception of the people as the font of governmental power. Banning use of initiative to direct a state’s method of apportioning congressional districts would cast doubt on other time, place, and manner regulations governing federal elections that states have adopted by initiative without involvement by “the Legislature.”

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