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Old June 29th, 2015, 07:27 AM   #1
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Major Victory Against GOP Gerrymandering

Supreme Court upholds Arizona's independent redistricting commission, dealing blow to Republicans



Advocates for redistricting reform scored a crucial victory today when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission. Passed by the voters in 2000, in an effort to remove legislators' bias from the redistricting process, the commission was imperiled by the GOP's rabid desire to abolish it so that they could gerrymander the state's congressional districts to give themselves a partisan advantage.

This case has broad implications for other electoral reform efforts in several other states. As with Arizona, California has its own independent redistricting commission that would have almost assuredly been found unconstitutional had the plaintiffs prevailed. Similarly, Florida voters passed anti-gerrymandering rules in 2010 (the legislature's redistricting plan is subject to ongoing litigation in state court), and redistricting measures have appeared on the ballot in other states like Ohio.

At issue in this case was the meaning of the Article One constitutional clause governing the rules regarding congressional elections, which states the following:

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, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

Republican state legislators contended that the word "legislature" means the literal representative legislature, which would preclude the voters themselves from directly instituting rules that would determine the electoral rules. Legal scholars are divided over the issue, but some of them gave very compelling reasons to agree with the defendants.

They argue that the concept of the legislature also encompasses the electorate itself, saying the term does not refer to a specific representative body but rather to those who are empowered to make laws. In a state that permits citizens to put forth ballot initiative like Arizona, this means the voters themselves, and the Supreme Court agreed with this interpretation.

Looking to the future, the initiative process provides activists with one of the most potent tools they have to fight gerrymandering. Republican-drawn states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Utah are all ripe targets for potential redistricting reform campaigns if only activists can organize and raise enough funds to compete. Reform initiatives are overwhelmingly popular when proponents have enough funds to wage a competitive campaign, as evidenced by the broad margins by which such measures passed in Arizona, California, and Florida.

While this case only concerns Congress and only immediately impacts Arizona, a ruling for the plaintiffs would have had explosive implications for ballot initiatives and direct democracy. More frighteningly, taken to its logical extreme, such a ruling may have even removed the ability of governors to veto redistricting legislation, since governors are not literally a part of the legislature.

That would have destroyed Democrats' ability to block future GOP gerrymandering because it is far easier to win gubernatorial elections in states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin than it is to capture their already gerrymandered legislatures (whose district lines were drawn by Republicans, of course).

Had the ruling gone the other way, it might have kept Democrats out of the House for a very long time, which underscores just how big of a victory this is for reform advocates. It is now up to activists to organize new ballot measures in more states to combat the current gross distortion of gerrymandering.
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Old June 29th, 2015, 07:47 AM   #2
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This is a major decision that will be discussed on this site and others, long after the decisions on Obamacare, and marriage equality have been put on the back burner.
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Old June 29th, 2015, 08:11 AM   #3
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Yes, and we know why the right hates it so. It prevents them from effectively holding on to a majority they only way that they can, with such changing demographics. I like this quote from Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the majority decision:

Quote:
"The people of Arizona turned to the initiative to curb the practice of gerrymandering," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her majority opinion, which was joined by the Court's other three liberals and Justice Anthony Kennedy. "In so acting, Arizona voters sought to restore 'the core principle of republican government,' namely, 'that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.'"
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Old June 29th, 2015, 08:29 AM   #4
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This should just be the beginning of lawsuits that fight gerrymandering. Republican legislatures all over this country have quarantined registered Democrats in a few huge districts and then surround those districts with multiple, small rural districts that they know will vote Republican. In the last two elections in my state of Ohio, more votes were cast for Democrats than were for Republicans yet Republicans dominate in the Ohio legislature due to gerrymandering's quarantine effects. The net effect is that a Republican vote counts as more than one and each Democrat vote counts as less than one. This is political Jim Crowe behavior with the Democrats as a whole being disenfranchised.
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Old June 29th, 2015, 08:37 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waitingtables View Post
Yes, and we know why the right hates it so. It prevents them from effectively holding on to a majority they only way that they can, with such changing demographics. I like this quote from Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the majority decision:
I'm actually quite surprised the interwebs have been as quiet about this decision so far. It goes to show where peoples attention is focused. This decision will be the one that allows the Dems to win back the House sooner than would have been expected. Which in turn will have major implications on how the other decisions will be carried out for years to come. Not to mention decisions yet to be made. I would also like to add how big of a decision this is if Clinton were elected, and appointed another Liberal to the court.

It's going to get interesting after the first challenge to rewrite a district in a red state hits the news cycles. Can you imagine the whining when that happens in Texas? I wonder if they'll use religious liberty as an argument to refuse?
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Old June 29th, 2015, 10:56 AM   #6
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I think that jimmybser's absence today may be a result of his head exploding from all that has happened these last dozen days lol
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Old June 29th, 2015, 10:57 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Camelot View Post
This should just be the beginning of lawsuits that fight gerrymandering. Republican legislatures all over this country have quarantined registered Democrats in a few huge districts and then surround those districts with multiple, small rural districts that they know will vote Republican. In the last two elections in my state of Ohio, more votes were cast for Democrats than were for Republicans yet Republicans dominate in the Ohio legislature due to gerrymandering's quarantine effects. The net effect is that a Republican vote counts as more than one and each Democrat vote counts as less than one. This is political Jim Crowe behavior with the Democrats as a whole being disenfranchised.
I agree.
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Old June 29th, 2015, 11:06 AM   #8
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This is a very narrow ruling.


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Old June 29th, 2015, 11:14 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by excalibur View Post
This is a very narrow ruling.


This is not a narrow ruling at all. There has been a wave of special election propositions from citizens to vote to take re-districting out of the hands of politicians and placed into the hands of non-partisan commissions. Arizona and Califorinis are just two examples. The Republicans challenged this in court because they know, if voters have a fair representation, then state legislatures and the House of Representatives will look very different. This ruling encompasses the whole re-districting landscape. Nothing narrow about this ruling at all.
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Old June 29th, 2015, 11:42 AM   #10
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It does not change the fact that this is a narrow ruling.

Interesting how the left thinks that a clear provision in the Constitution can be amended by judicial fiat.

Quote:
Art. I, §4, cl. 1
“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, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”
There was only one meaning of Legislature, that was the body elected to serve as the state legislature. Now we have 5 Justices amending that clear meaning. A further blow to the rule of law.

BTW..... The commission has been as much involved in playing politics with redistricting as any state legislature has been, that was the finding of a three judge panel* (not part of this case however - but referenced in the Roberts dissent). So there is no sanctity in a panel deciding redistricting.

*See: Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Comm’n, 993 F. Supp. 2d 1042 (Ariz. 2014)


Last edited by excalibur; June 29th, 2015 at 11:49 AM.
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