Election Law @ Moritz

Election Law Litigation

Arizona Minority Coalition for Redistricting v. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

Print Page

In this case, Plaintiffs sought a writ of mandamus and declaratory or injunctive relief on the grounds that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's ("Commission") redistricting plan discriminated on the basis of race. Part of this alleged discrimination consisted of removing the Hopi Tribe from the same district as the Navajo Nation.

Arizona voters had approved an amendment to the Arizona Constitution which created the Commission, consisting of five appointed volunteers from both major political parties, to redraw legislative and congressional districts. A set procedure for drawing district lines is to consist of: creating districts with equal populations; make adjustments "as necessary"; and, advertise a draft map. Throughout this process, the Commission may not take into account party registration and voter history data.

The lower Court enjoined the plan in question, finding that it did not favor competitive districts and required definitions to some ambiguous terms. On Appeal, the Court of Appeals found that the lower Court improperly used a strict scrutiny level of review. As the redistricting merely places voters into districts, does not treat voters unequally, does not substantially burden the right to vote and no evidence of a segregation intention on the part of the Commission was found, this case was remanded to the Trial Court to reconsider whether the challenged plan is rationally related to a legitimate government purpose.

Additionally, the Court of Appeals found no basis in the Equal Protections Clause to invalidate the redistricting plan. The Commission must be allowed flexibility in balancing goals of redistricting, and the definitions required by the Trial Court will not in themselves ensure discrimination will not occur. As to the challenge to the lack of competitiveness of the challenged plan, the Court found that the language of the amendment only requires the Commission to consider competitiveness when the other goals of redistricting will not be impeded. In this case, although other redistricting plans may have been more competitive, the Commission's plan was found to be proper as it met the superseding goals of the amendment.

Other future issues were considered. These included: mere knowledge of information prohibited from being considered will not invalidate the plan, but it is the use of this knowledge that is prohibited; and, there is no requirement that the Commission ignore its knowledge or experience, as long as the criteria of the amendment is carefully and honestly considered.

Finally, as to the specific Navajo claim, the Court found that the respect for a community's interest does not necessarily require that the community be all in the same district; in fact, it is sometimes in the community's interest to divide them as this will remove unwanted pressure from part of the community that may not agree with the majority. As the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation have historical and present-day, opposing federal interests, it was in the community's best interests to divide them into separate districts. Additionally, as the district of the Hopi Tribe was geographically contiguous, not necessarily accessible, to the remainder of the district, the district plan was found to be proper.