For more than six years, the panel charged with drawing Arizona’s political boundaries was the target of criticism, protests and repeated lawsuits. It even suffered a break-in at its Capitol Mall office.

But despite the headwinds, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission triumphed in the key legal and policy battles it faced.

After closing its doors for good late last month, it leaves behind a legacy that ensures it will continue as Arizona’s political mapmaker, even as skeptics doubt the value of letting an independent panel, rather than lawmakers, draw political boundaries.

The commission's biggest legacy is its win in a case brought by the Arizona Legislature. Lawmakers challenged the authority of the commission to draw congressional-district lines, arguing it violated the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But in a 5-4 opinion in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed.

"It basically said independent redistricting is an option for the states," said Mary O'Grady, one of the commission’s attorneys. "It's important for the country."

Joe Kanefield, the commission’s other attorney, said a lawsuit triggered by former Gov. Jan Brewer's dismissal of the commission's chairwoman also set an important precedent. Brewer fired Colleen Coyle Mathis, saying she did not run the commission in an impartial manner.

Mathis had been the target of unrelenting criticism from Republicans, who doubted her status as an independent because of key votes where she sided with Democrats on the panel. Mathis and the commission challenged the dismissal to the state Supreme Court and won. That case, Kanefield said, settled the question of whether the governor’s powers over redistricting, as outlined in the state’s Constitution, could be challenged.

These cases, along with one on procedural matters that was decided this spring and former Attorney General Tom Horne's challenge on open meetings, helped to clarify the scope of the commission’s authority, Kanefield said.

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