Arizona Lawmakers Want Ability To Draw Congressional District Lines

Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 9:31am
Updated: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 10:28am
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State lawmakers asked the United States Supreme Court on Monday to return the right to draw Congressional district lines to them. That power was taken away from the legislature and given to an Independent Commission by the state’s voters in 2000 in hopes it would be a less political alternative.

But in 2012, lawmakers sued, claiming the U.S. Constitution gives them the job when it says the manner of electing Congress “shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.” The courts have so far disagreed, saying the voters are the ultimate lawmakers and have the authority to create the commission.

House legal counsel Peter Gentala says that ignores the Constitution.

“The Legislature has a specific meaning, and when the framers chose that term they were using it compared to giving the power to the state more generally or giving it to the legislative branch in general,” Gentala said. “Legislature means lawmaking body. There's only one lawmaking body in Arizona that fashions the laws of the people.”

Politics may be playing a role. The Republican-controlled Legislature only filed the suit after the independent commission drew new maps in 2011 that resulted in Democrats winning five of the state’s nine Congressional districts.

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