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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    AZ Supreme Court ruling essential to democracy

    Less than a month ago, Gov. Jan Brewer impeached Colleen Mathis, the head of the Independent Redistricting Commission, with the backing of the required two-thirds majority of the Senate. Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the governor’s decision and sent Mathis back to work. In a season of strange and momentous politics in the Grand Canyon State, this climatic chapter in the ballad of the Independent Redistricting Commission may yet be the most of both.

    In this contest of wills, the victors are, thankfully, the people of the state. In a political body where the three organs of government seem to be failing, the Supreme Court acted decisively and precisely as it was designed to do by keeping justice and fairness at the center of the debate.

    For many, the Supreme Court’s decision on the chairperson of the Independent Redistricting Commission begs an essential question; what is the Independent Redistricting Commission? The commission was established by citizen initiative in 2000 for the purpose of redrawing districts for both congressional and legislative offices (taking this power away from the state Legislature). According to the commission, the goal is to establish districts that better reflect census data, and to keep with the “one person, one vote” ideology by making the districts roughly equal in population size. The commission’s once and now returning chairwoman, Mathis, is an independent. She leads two Republicans and two Democrats who also sit on the commission.

    The commission’s entire process was challenged when Brewer attempted to impeach its leader. Citing “gross misconduct” on the grounds that Mathis’ direction had favored Democrats, encouraged competition and violated the Open Meeting Law, Brewer was able to convince the Senate, voting along party lines, to back her decision. Now the Supreme Court has done to Brewer what she did to Mathis, citing the governor’s failure to prove that gross misconduct had taken place.

    The question remains, of course, as to whether the commission’s decisions are what is best for the state. Brewer is allowed to disagree on that point, and has a duty to challenge their decisions if she feels they are wrong. However, there is a difference between this and attempting to derail the commission on what appears to be purely political grounds.

    Competition is what elections should be about; noncompetitive elections are the stuff of dictatorships. Favoring Democrats and violations of the Open Meeting Law are serious charges, but the nature of the impeachment seemed to indicate these concerns were less important to the governor than other, perhaps more political ones.

    The facets of government, including the unique commission, established directly by citizens, should necessarily compete so that no one branch or organization becomes too powerful. An individual and their allies seeking to quash another organization for anything other than the gravest of offenses is just the opposite of that. The justices of the Supreme Court recognized this, and sensibly restored the commission.

    In a day and age when governmental bodies across the country seem to be failing, it is heartening that the Supreme Court of Arizona functioned correctly. The justices recognized that policy disagreements, which seem to be at the heart of these events, should remain within the normal political process. Overreaching these processes, especially on such seemingly political grounds, has no place in a democracy. This is important particularly because the commission was established directly by the people. Unilateral interference with the work of the commission outside normal channels represents a threatening gesture that the Supreme Court rightfully countered.

    These are strange and momentous days in Arizona. Let’s hope that other actors follow the Supreme Court’s example in what likely will be stranger days to come.

    — Andrew Conlogue is junior studying philosophy, politics, economics and law. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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