Better UTAH: SCOTUS redistricting ruling is a victory for voters

Salt Lake City, Utah – In Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Supreme Court today upheld an Arizona ballot initiative that established an independent redistricting commission.

“This decision is a victory for voters because it affirms the power of the ballot box to combat real or perceived legislative dysfunction and malfeasance,” said Josh Kanter, Founder and Board President of the Alliance for a Better UTAH.

“Even the appearance of impropriety suppresses democracy and belief in the system. That was certainly the case with the Utah’s most recent redistricting process.

“In a state so heavily dominated by one political party, lopsided elections and dwindling voter participation, Better UTAH urges the Utah legislature to recognize the benefits to our democracy of establishing an independent redistricting commission before the next census and redistricting process. Following in the footsteps of the Count My Vote and SB54 efforts, the establishment of an independent redistricting commission in Utah will further the goals of rebuilding voter participation, citizen engagement and faith in the system.”

Case Background Provided by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law:

The case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, challenged a state constitutional amendment adopted in 2000 by Arizona voters, which created a politically neutral commission drawing new boundaries for the state’s congressional districts every 10 years. Before the amendment, the state legislature, as in many states, had been responsible for setting and adjusting district lines.

The Commission drew district boundaries in 2001 and again in 2011. After the 2011 redistricting, however, the Republican-controlled state legislature sued the Commission, arguing that use of the Commission to draw maps violated the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause. At issue was a portion of the Elections Clause that provides that the “times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” Because redistricting traditionally has been construed to fall within the ambit of “manner” of holding elections, Arizona argued the strict language of the clause means congressional districts can be drawn only by state legislatures.

A three-judge federal panel rejected the challenge in 2014 in a 2-1 decision, holding that the use of the term “legislature” in the Elections Clause should be read to refer to the entirety of a state’s legislative process, including ballot initiatives passed by the voters.

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