• Independent redistricing commissions declared constitutional

    Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a big victory for citizen-led democracy. In a 5-4 decision in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Court found that voters can set up independent redistricting commissions.

  •  Supreme Court Backs Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

    Washington, DC – Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was a big victory for citizen-led democracy, ruling that independent redistricting commissions set up by voters are constitutional. The decision maintains the Arizona system put in place in 2000 by voters through a ballot initiative, as well as California’s system, which was also put in place directly through the initiative process. 

    “This is a tremendous victory for democracy,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “Today’s decision reinforces a key principle in redistricting reform:  that voters should choose their representatives rather than letting politicians choose their voters. Drawing the boundaries of legislative districts is too important to leave to politicians,” she said. 

    “This decision is all the more important because partisan gerrymandering has reached dangerous levels across the nation,” MacNamara said. “Its harmful effects are not hard to find: the practice undermines the concept of majority rule, reduces the competitiveness of elections, and contributes to the political polarization that feeds gridlock.”

    “The Arizona legislature argued in this case that only they can conduct federal redistricting under the U.S. Constitution,” said MacNamara. “Today, the Court rejected that argument, reasoning that the initiative power of the people of Arizona was a valid exercise of legislative power.”

    “With the Arizona opinion, independent redistricting commissions are reinforced as an important process by which the voters can protect themselves and their state from excessive partisan gerrymandering,” said MacNamara. “We will continue to work at the state and national levels to pursue reforms through legislative action, constitutional amendment or citizen initiative,” she said.

    The League of Women Voters of the U.S. joined with other concerned organizations in an amicus brief in this case arguing that the Court had already ruled that excessive partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. The Leagues of Women Voters of Arizona and Illinois also joined amicus briefs in this case.

    “Today, the highest court in the nation strengthened the power of the people to protect themselves from excessive partisan influence and incumbency protection in redistricting,” concluded MacNamara. “This is a great for democracy and for those that believe in fair, effective representation for all.”

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    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331, kceballos@lwv.org.

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  • “Court decision is a big step forward in fight for voter-based redistricting,” says League

    Washington, D.C.  – Late yesterday, a Florida Circuit Court issued an opinion in Romo v. Detzner, a case that examined whether Florida's congressional districts violate that state’s constitution.  The final judgment of the court was that the congressional map drawn by the Florida legislature and adopted in 2012 violates the Fair District Amendments to Florida’s constitution which were adopted by citizen initiative in 2010 to remove partisan influence from the redistricting process. The League of Women Voters of Florida was the lead organizational plaintiff in the lawsuit, and was the driving force behind passage of the Fair Districts Amendments.

    “This decision gives us a new tool to fight partisan gerrymandering,” said national League President, Elisabeth MacNamara. “The criteria adopted by the citizens of Florida and enforced by the court are effective in fighting partisan gerrymandering. This case provides a roadmap for other states to limit partisan gerrymandering and force an open and transparent process for drawing congressional lines.”

    “Today, we see that voters can win,” MacNamara said. “We can have redistricting processes that allow the voters to choose their representatives rather than the politicians choosing the voters. We now have a track record in Florida and California, of successful, citizen-led initiatives by the League of Women Voters that have used both redistricting criteria and an independent commission to fight partisan gerrymandering.”

    During the case, the Florida courts required legislators to disclose secret emails used in the redistricting process that helped this court decide that the Florida congressional redistricting was intentionally designed to benefit one political party over the other. “This decision once again shows the importance of transparency. It was essential for the legislators to come clean and reveal what was really going on in the redistricting process. Citizens have a right to have government act in the open rather than in secret,” MacNamara said.

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331, kceballos@lwv.org

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    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

  • When the People Draw the Lines, the League of Women Voters of California

    Editorial Note: This blog post was written with the assistance of Chris Carson, Redistricting Program Director, the League of Women Voters of California

  • North Carolina Challenge Goes to Court; Affected Hundreds of Voters in 2012

    June 12 Media Call to Provide Exclusive Analysis of Inaugural CA Redistricting Commission

    Washington, DC—The League of Women Voters is offering opportunities for media to learn more about key redistricting advancements in North Carolina and California and discuss the implications both will have on future elections.

    North Carolina Redistricting Suit in Court This Week

    With a key redistricting legal challenge being argued in  Raleigh this week, League of Women Voters of North Carolina (LWVNC) and co-plaintiffs have offered clear evidence that the state’s 2011 redistricting plan directly contributed to voter confusion and unconstitutionally segregated voters by race on Election Day 2012. Post-election analysis conducted by the nonpartisan Southern Coalition for Social Justice shows that the 2011 redistricting plan placed one in four North Carolina voters into “split precincts”, leading to widespread confusion and hundreds of voters assigned to the wrong districts receiving the wrong ballots on Election Day 2012. Those living in minority communities were particularly hard-hit. The plaintiffs are asking the Court to instruct the state legislature to develop a more representative plan. 

    “The League has said from day one that this hyper-partisan redistricting map was intentionally designed to maximize partisan control at the expense of voters’ needs and limit the influence of minority voters,” said LWVNC president Jo Nicholas. “This redistricting plan was intended to cause harm to voters, and it did.”

    Contact Kelly Ceballos (kceballos@lwv.org) for further information about the North Carolina trial.

    June 12 Media Teleconference: New Report Examines Outcomes of California Citizens Redistricting Commission and Identifies Future Recommendations

    Join researchers, redistricting commissioners and civic leaders as they share a new League of Women Voters and James Irvine Foundation report that examines the first-ever California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC), shares new public opinion data and provides recommendations for future commissions.

    What: Media Briefing Teleconference
    When: Wednesday, June 12 at 10:30 AM PDT (1:30 EDT)
    RSVP to edit@fcpcommunications.com 
    Number: (800) 230-1093
    (Ask for League of Women Voters of California Teleconference)
    Who:   
    Host: Chris Carson, League of Women Voters of California      
    Researcher:     Dr. Raphael Sonenshein,
    Executive Director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs, California State University, Los Angeles
    Special Guest(s):

    Catherine Hazelton,
    Senior Program Officer of the California Democracy Program, The James Irvine Foundation

    Michelle DiGuilio,
    Member, California Citizens Redistricting Commission

    Stanley Forbes, Member, California Citizens Redistricting Commission

  • Next week, a Raleigh court will hear evidence detailing how North Carolina's flawed 2011 redistricting plan was intentionally designed to harm hundreds of voters, especially those living in minority communities.

  • Florida voters suffered a setback this week as judges ruled to allow implementation of both the congressional and reworked state Senate redistricting maps, despite repeated challenges by the League and other groups on the grounds the maps violated new Fair Districts standards in the state. The League had previously celebrated a victory when the Supreme Court ordered the legislature to redraw its original Senate plan.