Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
June 29, 2015

  • Supreme Court validates Arizona’s independent commission to draw congressional lines
  • Arizona Republicans wanted to regain their power to draw districts
  • California’s top-two primary system could have been at risk

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

But the fun – months of chattering by political cognoscenti about the possibility that the Legislature could regain its power to redraw congressional districts – ended Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling 5-4 in an Arizona case, affirmed the constitutionality of having districts drawn by an independent commission after each decennial census.

The Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature had challenged the validity of its commission, citing the Constitution’s election clause, which says, “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.”

“The history and purpose of the (elections) clause weigh heavily against precluding the people of Arizona from creating a commission operating independently of the state legislature to establish congressional districts,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority, which included Californian Anthony Kennedy.

“Such preclusion would also run up against the Constitution’s animating principle that the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.”

While Arizona Republicans wanted to regain their power to draw districts, had they won, it would have been a victory of sorts for the California Legislature’s Democratic majority.

Democrats could have reconfigured California’s 53 districts to increase their already overwhelming, 39-14 majority and/or shore up about a half-dozen of their incumbents who may be vulnerable under certain circumstances.

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