February 24, 2015

New ACS Issue Brief Examines Supreme Court Redistricting Case

ACS Issue Brief, Alan B. Morrison, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

Leading Constitutional Law Professor Analyzes
Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 24, 2015

CONTACT: Nanya Springer, Assistant Director of Communications, (202) 741-0685 or nspringer@acslaw.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On March 2, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.  The Court’s decision could strike a powerful blow against political gerrymandering, which turns the boundary lines of electoral districts into tools used to dull the power of voters.  Today, ACS has released an Issue Brief by one of the nation’s leading constitutional law scholars that explains the legal issues involved in the case.

In “Another Attack on Election Reform: Congressional Redistricting Commissions,” Alan B. Morrison, the Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest & Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School, examines the arguments made by the parties and discusses the potential far-reaching consequences of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Morrison explains that the case arises from a voter-approved Arizona law that takes congressional redistricting out of the hands of the state legislature and assigns it to a non-partisan, independent commission – the idea being that assigning the drawing of district lines to an independent commission will reduce political gerrymandering and prevent district lines designed to protect incumbents, thereby improving democracy.

The Arizona legislature filed suit, arguing that the U.S. Constitution forbids any body other than a state legislature from drawing the lines for that state’s congressional districts.  Morrison examines case law pertaining to the legislature’s standing to bring the suit as well as its interpretation of Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution – the Elections Clause.  Based on this analysis, he asserts that the legislature lacks standing to challenge the constitutionality of the independent redistricting commission and that, even if the Court decides to hear the merits, the legislature’s arguments should be dismissed.

Morrison goes on to illustrate the absurd ramifications of the Arizona legislature’s reading of the Elections Clause.  He says, “[T]he Arizona Constitution allows the voters to override legislation, in whole or in part, through a referendum process.  If the voters acted under that power regarding a redistricting law passed by the legislature, would that also violate Section 4 by placing the final decisional authority outside the legislature?” 

Professor Morrison’s ability to foresee the effects of differing interpretations of the Elections Clause – and point out potential inconsistencies with America’s laws, history and values – makes the Issue Brief valuable reading to anyone seeking to understand the important issues central to the case.

Read the full Issue Brief here. To speak with the author, contact Nanya Springer at nspringer@acslaw.org or (202) 741-0685.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS), founded in 2001 and one of the nation's leading progressive legal organizations, is a rapidly growing network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals dedicated to making the law a force to improve lives of all people. For more information about the organization or to locate one of the more than 200 lawyer and law student chapters in 48 states, please visit www.acslaw.org.