“Argument analysis: Justices hard to read on Arizona redistricting plan”

Amy Howe on Harris oral argument:

“Where’s the beef?”  That was the question from Washington attorney Paul Smith, arguing at the Court today on behalf of the five-member independent commission charged with drawing new state legislative maps for Arizona.  The Justices heard oral arguments in a challenge by several Arizona voters to the maps that the commission drew after the 2010 census; the voters allege that the commission violated the principle of “one person, one vote” when it intentionally put too many residents into Republican-leaning districts while putting too few into Democratic-leaning districts.  The Court’s four more liberal Justices seemed inclined to agree with Smith, but some of the Court’s more conservative Justices were harder to read.  Because a ruling in favor of the challengers could potentially affect redistricting maps around the country, both sides could be on tenterhooks waiting for the Court’s eventual decision.

My own read of the transcript was that Thor was really getting hung up even with the conservatives in dealing with the lower court’s factual finding that the Commission’s predominant motivation in deviating from perfect equality in drawing the districts was a good faith belief it was required by the Voting Rights Act. That, and the fact that he offered no good standard for determining how much partisanship in districting is too much to allow deviations from one person, one vote made me think the challengers are likely to lose this one.

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