In a 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Ginsburg this morning, the Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission, allowing the use of independent state commissions to draw federal congressional districts and taking that power away from the state legislature.
In 2000, Arizona voters amended their constitution, shifting the responsibility of drawing congressional districts, previously held by the state legislature, to a panel called the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The panel consists of two Republicans, two Democrats, and one independent. Legislative leaders cannot alter the maps and the governor cannot veto them, though they may comment on the plans drawn up by the commission. Diminishing the legislature’s role in reapportionment is a victory for voters seeking to curb the practice of gerrymandering, the drawing of congressional districts in an effort to manipulate the results of an election.
Today’s decision upheld the commission, allowing Arizona voters to transfer powers over federal congressional districting to an independent commission. In the Court’s opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the Majority of the Court referenced a 2005 gerrymandering case, which stated that, “the voters should choose their representative, not the other way around.”
Chief Justice Roberts joined Justice Scalia, Thomas, and Alito in dissenting.
California is the only other state to approve a commission that diminishes the legislature’s role in a manner similar to Arizona, though 11 other states have commissions that play a role in redistricting.