Will North Carolina ever see the establishment of an independent commission to draw boundary lines for redistricting? Polls say 70% of our citizens would support an impartial effort. But what happens at the Supreme Court Of the US this year may be more important than the bill currently in our legislature. (SB 92)
Watch for the Supreme Court ruling in the case Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The Arizona State Legislature is loath to give up the powers of redistricting it lost in 2000, when a ballot initiative passed by popular vote (56% to 46%) gave that authority to an independent Commission.
At issue, is the definition of the word "legislature." The State Legislature claims the definition is narrowly limited to the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution:
Article I, Section 4
1: The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
The Legislature contends the framers intended this clause to mean that only the legislative body of each state is Constitutionally empowered to create such legislative districts. The newly enacted process in Arizona allows for some seats on the Commission to be appointed by the Legislature, but that body cannot repeal any maps created by the Commission or enact any legislation in that would alter them.
The Commission itself claims that
the high court has previously held that the word “legislature” in the Constitution doesn’t necessarily mean the literal legislature, but rather the state’s lawmaking process as a whole, as ruled by SCOTUS in. Smiley v. Holm and Ohio ex rel. Davis v. Hildebrant.
They also point out that Article I, Section 4, makes it very clear that Congress has the right to enact changes that all state legislature would have to abide by.
Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the Arizona Legislature, the changes proposed for North Carolina will warrant a new look, as would any election laws that had been directly approved by voters in any state. The states of WASHINGTON, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, HAWAII, IDAHO, MASSACHUSETTS, MISSISSIPPI, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, OREGON, PENNSYLVANIA, AND VIRGINIA have filed amicus briefs on behalf of the Commission.
On March 2, SCOTUS will hear oral arguments.