PHOENIX — Arizona’s redistricting commission is running low on money to
pay its lawyers working to fend off Republicans’ legal challenges to maps of
congressional and legislative districts now in use across the state.
The commission’s staff said money to pay the commission’s lawyers will run out
in December, which could throw the legal defense of the maps in disarray, the
Arizona Capitol Times reported.
The commission meets Thursday to consider options that include authorizing a
lawsuit against the state for a court to order more funding, suspending the
commission’s legal defense of the maps and asking for a special legislative
session to consider additional funding.
However, talks with state officials indicate a special session “does not
appear possible,” the commission’s two top staff officials said Friday in a
Arizona voters created the commission to take the politically sensitive work of
drawing legislative and U.S. House districts out of the hands of legislators and
Redistricting carries high stakes politically because the makeup of districts
can give advantages to one party or another.
The constitutional change approved by voters over a decade ago requires that
the state provide funding for the commission, but the appropriation for the
current fiscal year was half of the commission’s request.
“Without an additional legislative appropriation, the commission is in
jeopardy as to compliance with the Arizona State Constitution which requires the
commission to defend the adopted maps,” the staff memo said.
The commission has already told its lawyers to minimize their work on the three
pending lawsuits to save money and it also moved money around within the
commission’s budget to help pay for legal work.
A ruling in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the map of
legislative districts could come any time. A panel of three federal judges heard
arguments and received final briefs in that case months ago.
“If the court were to rule that new mapping activity is required, the
commission does not have the funding to comply with the court’s decision,” the
staff memo said. “The state’s election process could be severely disrupted if
it is not clear at an early date what constitutes the various district
The two other cases are in earlier stages of litigation. Those lawsuits, one in
federal court and one in state court, challenge the congressional map.