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Scalia's Death Could Hurt Arizona's Redistricting Supreme Court Fight

Antonin Scalia with Mark Brnovich
(Photo courtesy of Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services)
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (left) last year in Phoenix with state Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could undermine efforts by Arizona Republicans to undo the state's 30 legislative districts.

In December an attorney representing the state's Republican interests asked the high court to rule that the lines drawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission were illegal. Mark Hearne said districts of unequal size were drawn to give Democrats an edge.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich also weighed in, choosing to ignore the question of partisan bias and go instead for a constitutional argument-- an issue that should have appealed to Scalia who often said he is an originalist who believes the words of the constitution mean exactly what they say.

"We were trying to be very strategic in our arguments. And that's why we focused on the one-person, one-vote, and that it wasn't political and a traditional redistricting case," Brnovich explained. "It dealt with diluting people's votes, not how the lines were drawn."

What makes Scalia's death significant for the case is the possibility the court would have ruled 5-4 that the Independent Redistricting Commission acted illegally. Without Scalia-- assuming he would have sided with challengers-- that would result in a 4-4 tie, leaving intact the lower court ruling which concluded the commission did not break the law.

In turn, that would mean the current lines remain through at least the 2020 election; lines that Republicans contend give unfair advantage to Democrats.

But Brnovich pointed out that at this point, that's pure speculation-- "There's no way you can predict what any judge is going to do."