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Republican challenge to legislative map drops request for interim 2012 plan

Lawyers for Arizona Republicans challenging the state’s new map of legislative districts on Tuesday dropped their effort to have a federal court draw an interim set of replacement districts for use in this year’s elections.

The lawyers said they still intend to press ahead with the overall lawsuit seeking to prevent the map of legislative districts approved by Arizona’s redistricting commission from being used in future elections.

However, the decision to no longer ask a panel of judges draw an interim map for use this year eliminates potential short-term uncertainty for candidates, political parties and election officials.

The April 27 filing of the lawsuit on behalf of individual Republicans demonstrates the high stakes of redistricting. District boundaries determine the political and demographic makeup of districts, influencing whether a political party’s candidates can win elections.

Preparations for the Aug. 28 primary and Nov. 6 general election are complete or well under way, and the monthlong period for candidates to file nominating papers ends May 30.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers said in a brief filing in U.S. District Court that they decided against seeking an interim map “for the sake of efficiency” and to avoid wasting court resources and those litigating the case.

“We were concerned about the timing of everything and felt that we should go forward on the merits rather than focus on trying to get temporary relief in such a short period of time,” said Michael Liburdi, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Joe Kanefield, one of the commission’s lawyers, said the development “isn’t surprising given the proximity of the elections.”

The abandonment of the request for an interim map is welcome news for the commission, election officials and voters, Kanefield said. “A last-minute change always causes confusion.”

The lawsuit alleges the commission violated state constitutional requirements on processes and criteria when it drew the new legislative districts.

The suit also said the commission unconstitutionally packed Republicans into certain districts to give Democrats an advantage in other districts.

The commission’s lawyers must file a formal response to the lawsuit by Wednesday.

Kanefield declined to discuss the response before it is filed. The commission’s lawyers on Monday responded to a separate but similar Republican lawsuit challenging Arizona’s new congressional districts by asking that it be dismissed.

In their motion, the commission’s lawyers said that lawsuit manufactured false flaws by using “innuendo, selectively extracted transcript excerpts and speculation to weave a conspiracy intended to cast doubt on the commission’s work.”

The lawsuit on the new congressional districts did not seek an interim map for 2012. Also filed on April 27, that case is pending in Maricopa County Superior Court.

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