Joetopia

Supreme Court needs to leave independent redistricting panels alone

Joe Tarica.
Joe Tarica. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Despite their near-infallible status, it’s entirely possible that our esteemed founding fathers didn’t have the crystal ball required to perfect every last detail of America’s founding document of self-governance.

The Bill of Rights and following amendments are proof enough of that, but other continuing, lesser questions about the meaning of the U.S. Constitution also demand interpretation to this day.

This essential parsing of intentions keeps the U.S. Supreme Court in business, although just how well they’re serving as stewards of that great document remains very much up for debate. (Citizens United, anyone?)

This is especially so when the nine lawyers in black choose to validate controversy where none exists by taking up cases that don’t warrant their attention.

Such is the instance with the issue of independent redistricting commissions, whose authority has been called into question by the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature.

Like California, Arizona has an independent redistricting commission that was created by ballot initiative.

But its existence has been jeopardized by a bunch of self-serving zealots who hope to manipulate constitutional language in a way that returns control of drawing congressional district lines to partisan groups at the state Capitol.

Arizona Republicans argue that the Constitution gives this duty to the Legislature, but a federal panel ruled that the reference in this case includes ballot measures. Enter the Supreme Court.

Normally, I wouldn’t give two hoots about what they think in Arizona — home of immigrant-bashing Sheriff Joe Arpaio, finger-wagging Gov. Jan Brewer and assorted other divisive leaders.

But we must sit up and take notice here, because misbehavior in our neighboring state could end up stinging California if enough of the stuffed robes in Washington somehow agree with their distorted line of thinking.

That’s because a ruling striking down Arizona’s redistricting commission would likely cast ripples westward and undo our own similar panel.

This must not be allowed to occur, after all the time and energy that went into forming a fair-minded system of drawing California’s congressional districts, a process that did away with silly shapes such as the ribbon of coastline from Ragged Point to Ventura that was Lois Capps’ previous 23rd District.

Thanks to the commission’s work in 2011, Capps’ district was reformatted to include all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, as well as northern Ventura County, while putting Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy back in the Valley, where most of his district is located.

We absolutely don’t need or want to undo the thoughtful compromises that eliminated those earlier gerrymandered boundaries — even though doing so would hand that authority in California back to a Democrat-dominated Legislature, who could very well reapply such power to even further broaden its influence in the state.

That would return us to less reasonable times and is simply not fair, regardless of who has the majority.

I would hope the highest court in the land recognizes this, but we’ve also seen too many cases of the conservative majority exercising what can only be described as hare-brained judgments.

They have a chance to get it right.

Here’s hoping the court appreciates the wisdom of how state legislatures reached outside their walls to assign this delicate duty and leaves the commissions as they are.

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