BRIEF: Arizona Redistricting Law is Part of Long Tradition of Citizens Regulating State Elections

For Immediate Release

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Susan Lehman, (212) 998-6318
Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, (212) 998-6289 or (646) 265-7721

BRIEF: Arizona Redistricting Law is Part of Long Tradition of Citizens Regulating State Elections

NEW YORK - A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Arizona legislature in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission would undermine the ability of citizens to combat the persistent problem of gerrymandering and enact other electoral reforms, argues a brief filed by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

At issue in the case is the legality of a ballot initiative, passed by the citizens of Arizona, which took redistricting power away from elected politicians and gave it to a nonpartisan redistricting commission. The legislature is challenging the law, arguing that it alone has the power to draw congressional districts.

“The Arizona Legislature’s position is not supported by the Constitution’s Elections Clause and runs contrary to more than two centuries of interpretation and practice,” said Michael Li, counsel at the Brennan Center. “Citizens have long held the power to set the rules for congressional elections. The Supreme Court should affirm that tradition and preserve this law.”

The brief also maintains that the way “legislature” was used at the time the Elections Clause was written is much broader than the narrow reading Arizona Legislature’s case argues, which would exclude the people acting via ballot initiative. If the Arizona Legislature prevails at the U.S. Supreme Court, the decision could adversely affect the constitutionality of a whole host of laws, ranging from California’s open primary law to Oregon’s all-mail ballot elections.

Read the Brennan Center’s amicus brief.

Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on redistricting reform.


The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.

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