The U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Breyer, has unanimously upheld the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's plan to redraw Arizona's legislative districts. Lawyers from Ballard Spahr's Political and Election Law Group, led by Joseph Kanefield, were part of the legal team that successfully fought off a challenge in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which alleged that the Commission's plan violated the 14th Amendment.

The new legislative map was drawn by the Commission, which was created by Arizona voters in 2000 for the purpose of ending the practice of gerrymandering and improving voter and candidate participation in elections. The Commission consists of two Democrats, two Republicans, and an Independent chair. The map received preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice before being approved by the Commission by a vote of 3-2, with the Republican members dissenting.

In Harris v. AIRC, the Court affirmed a three-judge federal District Court ruling, holding that the population deviation in the new legislative districts was the result of good-faith efforts by the Commission to comply with the Voting Rights Act. The plan was challenged because it had a population deviation from absolute equality of 8.8 percent. The challengers argued that such deviation was the result of efforts by the Commission's majority to make the legislative map more favorable to the Democratic Party. Because the deviation was below 10 percent, the challengers had the burden of showing that it was more probable than not that the deviation resulted from illegitimate factors.

The Court found nothing in the record to support the challenger's argument that it was more probable than not that the deviation resulted from illegitimate factors.

This is the second major U.S. Supreme Court victory for the Commission in the past two years. The Court, in 2015's Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, rejected a challenge brought by the Arizona Legislature alleging that the Election Clause in the U.S. Constitution deprived the Commission of authority to draw Arizona's congressional map.

Ballard Spahr's Political and Election Law Group, led by Joseph Kanefield, has served as counsel for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission since 2011. The Group advises clients on issues such as campaign finance, redistricting, access, lobbying, electoral strategy, PAC formation, and regulatory compliance. Litigators in the group have decades of experience representing clients during investigations and defending them in enforcement actions. If you have questions about the Harris decision or redistricting law, please contact a member of the Group.


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