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SCOTUS Unanimously Rules In Favor Of Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Wednesday that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission did not violate the principle of "one person, one vote" when it redrew the state’s legislative district.

Joseph Kanefield is with the law firm Ballard Spahr and represents the commission. He said, "The voters put in place this independent commission to draw these maps and to remove that process from the Arizona Legislature. This decision, which was unanimous, holds that the commission’s map and the minor population deviation between the largest and smallest districts was done for legitimate reasons primarily to comply with the Voting Rights Act."

Writing for the court, Justice Stephen Breyer said the one-person, one-vote principle "does not demand mathematical perfection."

The Supreme Court requires a state's legislative districts to have roughly equal numbers of people, but it has long said those numbers don't have to be exact. Differences of less than 10 percent are presumed constitutional unless challengers can show they are the result of discrimination or other invalid reasons.

In Arizona, the average population difference in redrawn districts was 2.2 percent, with a maximum difference of 8.8 percent. The plan placed more Republican voters in some districts that already were likely to elect GOP candidates and left other districts with smaller overall populations. Those districts have a greater concentration of Hispanic voters and are considered more likely to vote for Democrats.

Voters created the commission in 2000 to take on the politically-charged job of drawing new maps every 10 years, instead of leaving it up to the Legislature.

In a separate case last year, the Supreme Court ruled that cutting lawmakers out of congressional redistricting is not unconstitutional even though state legislatures have the power to set the "times, places and manner" of holding congressional elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.