Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The lawyers/lobbyists of the GOP's secretive redistricting organization FAIR Trust take their wild conspiracy theories about the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) to court today in U.S. District Court. These hucksters are challenging the state legislative districts which they believe should have been gerrymandered to create a permanent Republican majority in perpetuity because, after all, it is the divine right of Republicans to lord over us all.
Based upon the biased reporting of Howard Fischer today in the Arizona Daily Star, Arizona redistricting challenge heads to US court today, it appears that lawyer/lobbyist David Cantelme from FAIR Trust is pinning his hopes on the claim that population deviation between the districts is a violation of law. He apparently believes that state legislative district populations must be strictly equal.
Challengers are pinning their hopes on the fact that 30 districts crafted by the Independent Redistricting Commission are not all equal in population.
Attorney David Cantelme contends the differences were done "deliberately, intentionally and in violation of the one-person/one-vote principle."
The goal of the commission, he charges, was to cluster as many Republicans as possible together in districts, leaving the other, underpopulated districts with more Democrats than otherwise would occur, giving Democrats an unfair and illegal advantage in electing their own candidates to the Legislature.
Cantelme's argument that state legislative district populations must be strictlly equal is not supported at law. The U.S. Supreme Court has permitted population deviations to accommodate other legitimate concerns. The U.S. Supreme Court just last year (Tennant v. Jefferson Co. Commission et.al. 567 U.S. ___ 2012) upheld a West Virginia congressional map that differed in population between districts by as much as 4,871 people. Lyle Denniston wrote at SCOTUSblog.com, Opinion recap: Hedging on “one person, one vote”:
“Zero variance” in population is not the new constitutional norm for redistricting, the Court made clear. Just because computers can produce almost exactly equal-sized districts, the Constitution does not require it, the decision said.
After sitting on the case from West Virginia all summer long, the Court produced an eight-page, unsigned ruling that largely deferred to the wishes of that state’s legislature on how to craft the three districts for choosing its House delegation. The opinion can be found here. The new ruling came in the case of Tennant v. Jefferson County Commission (docket 11-1184).
"The equal population standard for congressional districts is notably stricter than for legislative or other types of political districts. In contrast, state and local redistricting followed a “substantially equal” standard, which translated to a rough rule/guideline allowing most maps a 10% deviation. While not a clear cut rule, it has become an operational standard in the redistricting community." U.S. Supreme Court Elaborates on Equal Population Requirement.
Attorneys for the AIRC do not dispute the population deviations.
Joseph Kanefield and Colin Campbell say any difference of less than 10 percent among the districts is "presumptively constitutional" unless challengers can prove there is an illegal or irrational basis for the differences.
They said the commission made changes to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act, which required creation of a certain number of districts where minorities have a chance to elect someone of their choosing.
Howard Fischer's biased reporting suggests that there is a dispute as to which party bears the burden of proof, but this is posturing by David Cantelme from the GOP's FAIR Trust. As Jospeph Kanefiled said, "any difference of less than 10 percent among the districts is 'presumptively constitutional' unless challengers can prove there is an illegal or irrational basis for the differences." That's how legal presumptions work, Howie.
Steve Muratore at the Arizona Eagletarian blog will continue his exceptional public service in reporting on redistricting in Arizona by covering the trial beginning today. Redistricting -- Trial preview:
At 8:30 am, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's trial will begin.
As I have indicated previously, I intend to attend the first day of the trial (Monday) and to live tweet for as long as the battery on my phone holds out.
At this time, I understand that over the course of the (expected) six day bench trial (no jury), each of the five commissioners will be called to testify.
An addition has been made to the legal team representing the AIRC. I expect former Maricopa County Superior Court Presiding Judge Colin Campbell, a partner in the law firm Osborne Maledon, to present the opening argument for the AIRC.
The outcome of this trial will boil down to whether David Cantelme is able to convince the three-judge federal court panel that there was an unlawful conspiracy to violate the Constitutional rights of Republican voters during the development of the legislative district maps approved by the AIRC more than a year ago.
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[T]he fact that the law is on the side of the IRC, conceptually it is up to the plaintiffs in the case (represented principally by Cantelme) to rebut the presumption that the variances in registered voters in the districts -- at the time of approval, certain Republican leaning districts had more voters than districts constructed to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Because those variances did not exceed ten percent, the legal presumption is that there was no violation of the principle of One Man (person, or voter)/One Vote.
The exquisite irony of the situation is in the fact that it was -- in fact -- David Cantelme who vociferously advocated (both on-the-record during testimony before the AIRC) and other times for zealously protecting the voting rights of ethnic and language minority voters. He goaded the AIRC to do the very thing he has succeeded in getting people to pay him to sue the commission for doing.
I recommend our readers follow Steve Muratore's blogging of the trial this week, and Blog for Arizona will add additional commentary.