By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a challenge by Arizona's legislature to a voter-approved plan that stripped state lawmakers of their role in drawing congressional districts in an bid to remove partisan politics from the process.
The state's Republican-controlled legislature is objecting to a 2000 ballot initiative endorsed by the state's voters that set up an independent commission to work out the U.S. House of Representatives districts in Arizona.
The legislature contends that the amendment to the state constitution violated a provision of the U.S. Constitution that requires state legislatures to set congressional district boundaries.
In February, a special three-judge panel of the U.S. district court in Arizona ruled in favor of the commission.
The court ruled that the language in the Constitution that says legislatures have the role of setting the “times, places and manner” of federal elections refers not to a specific legislative body but to the state’s general authority to legislate on the issue as it sees fit.
Four of the five members of the independent panel are selected by senior members of the legislature of both parties from a list of candidates picked by a state committee that vets appeals court judge applicants. The fifth is picked by the other four commission members from the same list.
The Supreme Court added its own legal questions to the case, which requires the parties to argue whether the legislature could bring the challenge and whether a federal law allows Arizona to use a commission to set congressional districts.
The court will hear oral arguments and rule on the case by the end of June.
The case is Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1314.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)