PHOENIX (CN) – Thirteen Republican voters claim in Federal Court that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission stacked the cards for Democrats, overpopulating Republican districts and underpopulating Democratic ones.
Lead plaintiff Wesley Harris claims the new district map violates the “one-person/one-vote requirement of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” and the Arizona Constitution’s equal population requirement.
The voters sued the commission and its members and the Arizona Secretary of State.
The plaintiffs claim the map “violated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by depriving minorities of the number of legislative districts the Act required for them. It systematically overpopulated Republican-plurality districts and underpopulated Democrat-plurality, the obvious goal being to maximize the number of Democratic districts. It packed Republican incumbents into districts to force them to run against each other.”
The plaintiffs, who describe themselves as all-Republican, claim that by the time the Independent Redistricting Commission had “approved its draft legislative map, it had not conducted a racial bloc voting analysis of either the congressional or the legislative map.” The map organized the minority voting-age population in some districts to exceed 60 percent, while in other districts it barely exceeded 50 percent, the plaintiffs claim.
The map also “failed to respect city, town, and county lines in multiple instances,” and took into consideration the residences of incumbents due to “the packing of Republican incumbents into several districts,” the complaint states.
The plaintiffs claim that the selection of Colleen Mathis as the commission’s chairwoman “was marred by material omissions from her application and from her interview. Had the chairperson disclosed her connections to the Democratic Party, she never would have been selected as chairperson.”
They claim that Mathis failed to disclose that her husband “served in the 2010 election as treasurer for the campaign of Nancy Young Wright, a Democratic candidate for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives,” and that she made donations to Democratic candidates and causes.
Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, removed Mathis as chairwoman on Nov. 1, 2011, but the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated her on Nov. 17, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs claim the commission “unfortunately quickly polarized around party lines, with the nominally independent chairperson siding with the two Democrats on every substantive issue, including the selection of a partisan Democratic firm as mapping consultant.”
The plaintiffs say Arizona voters passed Proposition 106 in 2000 to create the commission and take politics out of redistricting, but that the commission “put politics front and center – specifically to favor Democrats.”
Commission members Mathis, Linda McNulty, Jose Herrera, Scott Freeman, and Richard Stertz are named as defendants, along with Secretary of State Ken Bennett.
Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the legislative map is unconstitutional, and that a new map be drawn.
They are represented by Michael Liburdi and Ahron Cohen with Snell & Wilmer.