Republican legislators today voted to override Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt's veto of a congressional redistricting bill, even though Babbitt had inadvertently signed the bill into law.
Babbitt Saturday rejected both the congressional map and one drawing new state legislative boundaries, saying that both dilute "racial and ethnic minority interests in an unconstitutional and unlawful manner."
But Babbitt failed to strike the word "approved" from the congressional redistricting bill, which had the effect of giving it his approval when he signed it.
A member of the governor's staff blamed "a clerical error" for the glitch.
When Republicans first learned of the miscue, they were gleeful. But glee gave way to caution when the GOP lawmakers started wondering if a vote to override an approved bill would have the effect of vetoing it.
The state attorney general, Bob Corbin, a Republican, told GOP leaders that Babbitt clearly intended to veto the map, and they would be safe in overriding his action.
In his veto message of the congressional map, which was drawn and approved by Republicans, Babbitt said the intended victim of splitting Tucson between two districts "is a congressman of a different political party." He was referring to veteran Democrat Morris K. Udall.
House Majority Leader Burton Barr, a Phoenix Republican, offered to buy Babbitt an automatic vetoing machine, similar to an automatic stamping machine, "so he can veto our bills, bam, bam, bam."
The Democratic leader, Rep. Art Hamilton of Phoenix, said Democrats would be happy to share the cost of such a gadget.
Rep. Carl Kunasek, a Mesa Republican, noting that Babbitt has run up a record 60 vetoes, remarked, "He's had so much practice, you'd think he'd be able to get it right."
Babbitt was in Hawaii attending ceremonies marking the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor at the site of the sunken USS Arizona.
The vote in the House to override the vetoes was 41 to 17, strictly on party lines and one more than the 40 needed. Two conservative Republicans were wavering because they felt the congressional map was too generous to Democrats, but in the end they provided the necessary margin.
In the Senate, Republicans enlisted the aid of four conservative Democrats to override the vetoes, 20 to 9. The Democrats, who said they were acting to protect their rural districts, gave Republicans just enough votes for the override.
Within 60 seconds of the Senate's vote to override, the state Democratic Party filed suit in U.S. District Court challenging the maps.