In 2008 California adopted a new redistricting system for state offices extended in 2010 to Congressional seats.

It was accomplished through the arduous efforts of a 14-member non-partisan Citizens Redistricting Commission approved by the voters which took the powerful “gerrymandering” authority out of the hands of the state legislature.

This hard fought revision of a framework that served mainly the transparent aims of the state’s lop-sided Democratic Party majorities for decades is now in jeopardy of unraveling as a result of a decision by Arizona’s GOP-dominated legislature challenging the constitutional basis of its own Redistricting Commission. The issue is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case pertains only to federal offices hinging on the question as to whether an independent non-governmental commission can take away authority which the plaintiffs contend is reserved by the Constitution’s Election Clause exclusively to the legislature.

The Court’s conservative bloc appears likely to support that interpretation which could upend both the Arizona redistricting map and possible California’s as well. The Arizona Commission’s actions led to Democrats winning five of the state’s nine House seats in 2012.

Though a ruling favorable to the plaintiffs would leave California’s legislative boundaries intact, it could be a harbinger of future court cases that could disrupt the state’s newly adopted system which drew some early opposition but received strong support from the voters.

The principal aim behind this important election reform was to generate a more competitive playing field by drawing up political boundaries which did not automatically favor one party.

It seems to be working with three Democratic Assembly incumbents losing to Republican challengers in November—something which had not happened in California in 20 years!

In the statewide races, while no Republicans were ultimately successful, several mounted vigorous campaigns.

These included Pepperdine scholar, Pete Peterson, who garnered 47.5% of the vote for Secretary of State losing to incumbent State Sen. Alex Padilla and Fresno Mayor, Ashley Swearengin, who captured 46.6% in the Controller race losing to long time Board of Equalization member, Betty Yee.

The non-partisan race for Superintendent of Public Instruction was perhaps the most surprising, pitting Marshall Tuck an unknown school reformer against the incumbent Democrat, Tom Torlakson who eventually eked out a 4-point victory.

Since any kinds of sensible campaign finance reforms have been largely immune to changes that could alter the playing field for under-funded candidates who are typically non-incumbents, the reordering of the political typography has served to offset these unfair advantages.

The inequities of the old system were in part a result of California’s unbalanced population growth which should have favored Southern California where most of the citizenry resides.

Todd S. Purdum, a writer for POLITICO, observes that seeing this trend, North County legislators where the bulk of state’s early migrations occurred moved to consolidate their power by fashioning Senate districts that were geographically rather than population-based.

Such disproportionality resulted in Los Angeles County having one state senator representing 6 million in 1960 with some rural counties comprising 15,000 or fewer residents also having equal senatorial representation.

That all changed for purposes of federal reapportionment with the Supreme Court’s 1962 landmark ruling in Baker v. Carr which proclaimed the “one person, one vote” standard holding that each individual’s vote has the right to be weighed equally for purposes of legislative apportionment. A vote to support the Arizona suit would be a major erosion of that doctrine.

While there is scant likelihood that California will morph into a more politically balanced electorate anytime soon, there is general consensus shared in both parties that the new redistricting framework is superior to its predecessor.

Notably, the last three GOP Governors, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian joined the amicus brief against the suit filed by the Arizona legislature, while the nation’s top Democrats, who could benefit greatly from a reversal given the big losses in the last two mid-term elections have remained conspicuously silent.

If the high court were to rule the commission to be unconstitutional, it could affect other moderating election law reforms such as California’s adoption of the “top two” open primaries where the winners move on to the general election regardless of the percentage vote received.

It could also rekindle some ancient boundary disputes and political battles that were put to rest by California’s implementation of a non-partisan solution.

In this era of hyper-partisanship the outcome in this case carries considerable weight.

With a Congress fractured at the moment beyond seeming repair, the nation’s highest court has an opportunity to put the national interest and the public will ahead of the sectional bias of a single state legislature.