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BRIEF: Arizona Redistricting Law is Part of Long Tradition of Citizens Regulating State Elections

A new Brennan Center brief argues that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Arizona legislature would undermine the ability of citizens to combat the problem of gerrymandering.

January 26, 2015

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Arizona legislature in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission would undermine the ability of citizens to combat the persistent problem of gerrymandering and enact other electoral reforms, argues a brief filed by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

At issue in the case is the legality of a ballot initiative, passed by the citizens of Arizona, which took redistricting power away from elected politicians and gave it to a nonpartisan redistricting commission. The legislature is challenging the law, arguing that it alone has the power to draw congressional districts.

“The Arizona Legislature’s position is not supported by the Constitution’s Elections Clause and runs contrary to more than two centuries of interpretation and practice,” said Michael Li, counsel at the Brennan Center. “Citizens have long held the power to set the rules for congressional elections. The Supreme Court should affirm that tradition and preserve this law.”

The brief also maintains that the way “legislature” was used at the time the Elections Clause was written is much broader than the narrow reading Arizona Legislature’s case argues, which would exclude the people acting via ballot initiative. If the Arizona Legislature prevails at the U.S. Supreme Court, the decision could adversely affect the constitutionality of a whole host of laws, ranging from California’s open primary law to Oregon’s all-mail ballot elections.

Read the Brennan Center’s amicus brief.

Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on redistricting reform.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292–8381 or