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Home / 2012 year in review / New political maps were used for first time, but 3 lawsuits are pending

New political maps were used for first time, but 3 lawsuits are pending

As a staff member takes down the Arizona redistricting map, Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission chair Colleen Mathis gets a hug from Frank Bergen, a Pima County Democrat, at an Arizona redistricting meeting Jan. 17 in Phoenix.

As a staff member takes down the Arizona redistricting map, Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission chair Colleen Mathis gets a hug from Frank Bergen, a Pima County Democrat, at an Arizona redistricting meeting Jan. 17 in Phoenix. (AP photo)

While the actual mapping was done in 2011, this past year proved that the fight over redistricting takes many forms, with Arizona’s struggles over political boundaries shifting from the drawing room to the courtroom.

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission’s maps, used for this year’s elections and intended to be used until 2020, have been challenged by disgruntled Republicans this year on a number of legal fronts.

And while Republicans renewed their fight against the new maps in court, the results of the 2012 election, by design or not, show that Arizona’s political blueprint is in flux. A GOP supermajority in the Legislature no longer exists and Democrats outnumber Republicans among the state’s congressional delegation.

Democrats welcome their slightly expanded political influence, saying the new maps simply reflect the reality of Arizona’s more diverse electorate.

Meanwhile, political purists continue to question the continued lack of truly competitive districts despite efforts to lobby for them during the remapping process. They argued that up to 10 legislative districts and four congressional districts could have been drawn as potential toss-ups. The maps ended up with four legislative districts and three congressional districts that could be won by either a Republican or Democrat.

In the wake of the 2012 election results, Republican-led lawsuits demand that the maps be redrawn, claiming they were created illegally.

One lawsuit filed this year claims the commission’s mere existence is unconstitutional, based on the argument that redistricting authority is given only to the Legislature by the United States Constitution. That suit is headed to a three-judge federal court panel, though no dates for a hearing have been set.

Another lawsuit brought in federal court claims the legislative map was drawn illegally under the one-person-one-vote requirement by overpopulating Republican-leaning districts to maximize the number of Democratic-leaning districts.

Though courts have typically allowed slight variations in population and given decision-making authority to whatever body does the redistricting, court hearings on that suit are scheduled to begin in March.

A third suit claims the commission illegally amended the early congressional “grid map,” amounting to a violation of the state Constitution’s process for refining and redrawing the map.

That complaint was dismissed by a Superior Court judge. He essentially called the suit an amassing of Republican conspiracy theories without legal backing or recourse, but he also allowed the suit to be refiled. The suit awaits further action.

Both suits challenging the maps ask to have them redrawn, even though one election has already been carried out under the new maps.

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