On December 8, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In 2012, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission redrew the map for the state legislative districts based on the results of the 2010 census. Wesley Harris and other individual voters sued the Commission and alleged that the newly redrawn districts were underpopulated in Democratic-leaning districts and over-populated in Republican-leaning ones, and that the Commission had, therefore, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Commission countered that the population deviations were the result of attempts to comply with the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge district court ruled in favor of the Commission.
There are two questions before the Supreme Court on appeal: (1) Whether the desire to gain partisan advantage for one political party justifies creating over-populated legislative districts that result in the devaluation of individual votes, violating the one-person, one-vote principle; and (2) whether the desire to obtain favorable preclearance review by the Justice Department permits the creation of legislative districts that deviate from the one-person, one-vote principle, and--even if creating unequal districts to obtain preclearance approval was once justified--whether this remains a legitimate justification after the Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder.
To discuss the case, we have Mark F. Hearne, II, who is Partner at Arent Fox LLP.