Originally Published: June 7, 2012 9:55 p.m.
PHOENIX (AP) - The Republican-led Legislature is suing to challenge Arizona's new congressional districts, contending that a voter-approved law violates the U.S. Constitution by having a commission draw congressional districts instead of the Legislature.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court asks that judges prohibit use of the commission's approved map of new congressional districts after this year's elections.
The lawsuit said it's too late in the election process to bar use of the new districts this year.
Republicans contend the congressional map approved by the commission favors Democrats, and lawyers for top Republican legislative leaders filed the lawsuit on behalf of the full Legislature.
Arizona voters voted in 2000 to take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature and the governor, but the lawsuit alleges having the commission draw congressional districts violates a federal constitutional requirement that legislatures decide how congressional elections are conducted.
"Today, the Legislature is asking the federal courts to bring the constitutional redistricting process back to Arizona's elected representatives," House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said in a statement. "The Constitution entrusts the regulation of federal elections, including the drawing of congressional districts, solely to the legislatures of the states."
Tobin cited Article I, Section 4, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution which states, "The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof."
Commission attorney Joe Kanefield said having the commission draw new congressional districts is permitted because Arizona voters have ultimate lawmaking authority under the Arizona Constitution and because voters created the commission.
Kanefield said that fits with previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, and he predicted that courts will uphold Arizona's system.
The lawsuit is the third one backed by Republicans to try to block use of either the congressional district map or the separate map for new legislative districts.
The two previously filed lawsuits, which are pending and which likely will take many months or even years to decide, ask courts to block use of the commission's approved maps after this year's elections.
Legislative Democrats objected but were outvoted when the Legislature decided May 2 to authorize Tobin and Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, to either file a new suit or join previously filed ones.
"In 2000, Proposition 106 rode a wave of special-interest money to take congressional redistricting away from the people's elected representatives and give it to an unelected and unaccountable commission," Pierce said in the legislature's Thursday news release. "The Founders would never have stood for this. It's time to return to the plain command of the United States Constitution."