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Federal Court Leaves Arizona’s Contested Legislative Lines in Place


A federal court refused today to disturb the lines for the state’s 30 legislative districts — even if there’s evidence those lines were designed, at least in part, to give Democrats a political leg-up. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

The fight stems from the fact that the Independent Redistricting Commission created districts that were not equal in population. Attorney David Cantelme said the commission “packed” Republican voters into some districts which already had GOP majorities. That left more underpopulated districts where Democrats had a better chance of winning.

“Partisanship is not supposed to be part of our process in our state constitution,” Cantelme said.

In their ruling, the three judges agreed that “partisanship played some role in the design of the map” and that some commissioners wanted to “improve Democratic prospects.” But, they also said it appears the primary reason for the population differences was to comply with the Voting Rights Act and not dilute minority voting strength. So, the judges said there was no violation of federal constitutional requirements. But, they said it’s a separate question of whether the commission violated the 2000 voter-approved state law which created the panel and requires districts of equal population. And, they said it’s up to challengers to decide whether to take that question to state courts.

“We’ll have to study it. But it certainly leans in that direction,” Cantelme said.

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