Federal Court Upholds New Legislative District Maps for Arizona

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A federal court in Arizona refused to accept that the remapping of the state's 30 legislative districts had been done with sufficient political motive or inequity as to declare them unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

However, in the 55-page unsigned opinion authored by two U.S. District Court Judges, Roslyn Silver and Neil Wake, and Judge Richard Clifton of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the court observed that they had only addressed the issue as to whether districts of unequal population violated the U.S. Constitution. Other issues remained open and could be litigated before state courts.

One of the most significant observations in the ruling was that the court held there was no violation of the Fourteenth Amendment where legislative districts did not meet the requirement of having precisely equal populations, if such divergence was necessary to achieve other important objectives.

In the instant case, the panel held, the decision of the commission that remapped legislative districts, was "primarily a result of good-faith efforts to comply with the Voting Rights Act" and the commission's efforts to comply with requirements that remapping districts does not lead to diluting minority voting strength.

Nevertheless, the judges wrote, "we find that some of the commissioners were motivated in part in some of the line-drawing decisions by a desire to improve Democratic prospects in the affected districts," but, they concluded, "because compliance with federal voting rights law was the predominant reason for the deviations, we conclude that no federal constitutional violation occurred."

Those who challenged the remapping of the districts held that the lines had been redrawn to favor Democrats, and Republican voters had been packed into districts, which already had Republican majorities. This, opponents suggest, had created districts with unequal populations and pockets where Democrats had a better chance of winning.

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