Posted by Caitlin Kelly on July 02, 2015 at 2:43 PM
Intern’s Insight: SCOTUS Draws the Line on Redistricting in Arizona
A Millennial’s Perspective: Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission
In 2000, the state of Arizona created an independent commission of five citizens to take over the job of redistricting, drawing electoral district boundaries. This process, most commonly executed by State Legislatures, is highly politicized and conducted in such a way that is fueled by self-interest rather than for the benefit of the People. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was formed to combat this issue, in hopes of bringing attention back to the needs of the citizens rather than placing focus on the game of gerrymandering.
The State Legislature of Arizona recently challenged the existence of this commission, claiming it was unconstitutional. This argument stood on the language of Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which states “[t]he 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 [sic] Senators.”
After decoding the lengthy text and working through the formality of the language, the key segment here is “by the Legislature thereof”. The Arizona State Legislature saw themselves as the sole Legislature of the state, and therefore believed that the People of Arizona should not have a say in the details regarding elections.
Let’s say this out loud; the Legislature, made up of elected individuals, contended they should have the power to determine how they are elected and decide who elects them, rather than the citizens of a district voting who stands as their representative.
Imagine if a chef in a restaurant decided what you were going to order for dinner, based upon the table you sat at, because it was easier for them to maintain their business. This chef also decided to only serve chicken produced by one company, who gave them monetary incentive to be the restaurant’s exclusive option. What would happen? Probably a decrease in customers.
In a majority of the U.S., gerrymandered districts have a lower turnout for their primary elections, which opens the door for special interests who are well funded to have a greater say in the outcome.
On June 29th, Supreme Court ruled in favor of the People, with a 5-4 decision. “Legislature”, the word that stood as the keystone of this argument, was found to mean the overall Legislative power of the state, rather than solely the specific elected body.
This ruling is a huge step for the future, and instills hope in millennials for the future of our government. It shows support for the democratic process and is a step away from corruption and manipulation, taking the “game” out of politics and elections.
Had the ruling taken the alternate route, the outcome would have set a devastating precedent for the future. Reforms of redistricting would have been stunted; the fight for open or top-two primary systems would come to a halt; the prospect of change in the election process would be nearly unattainable. Instead of merely being thankful for this conclusion, it is time to take action.
Arizona and California are two current states that have independent commissions for redistricting. Hopefully this Supreme Court decision will spark other states to follow suit and put the power back in the hands of the People.
Millennials everywhere, not only those in these two states, need to increase their awareness of redistricting and the implications it holds for them. The Supreme Court and the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission have paved the way for us to right the wrongs that currently lie in our path, and arm us with the ability to conquer roadblocks in the future.
Caitlin Kelly, an Intern at Open Primaries, is going to be a senior at the University of Iowa this coming fall. She is a Political Science major with an emphasis in Political Communication. Caitlin has been interested in politics since her Elementary School held a mock-vote for the 2000 Presidential Election. She was a Senator and Communications Director in her Residence Hall Government her first year of college, and continues to promote leadership involvement through acting as a co-advisor for the University’s Hall Governments the past two years. Originally from New York, Caitlin is excited to explore the world of politics through her internship with Open Primaries and continue to promote political awareness and activism in her generation.