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Redistricting: Creating a level and vibrant political playing field


Creating a level and vibrant political playing field

What is redistricting?

Why should you care?

What can you do?

The exercise formerly known as gerrymandering

In many states, district boundaries are drawn to benefit the majority party in the state legislature. Essentially, the politicians of one party pick their voters and then can expect to stay in office forever. Thanks to a voter initiative in 2000, Arizona took a dramatic turn and became a national model for more independent mapping of electoral districts. Has it always reflected what its creators had hoped, perfectly balanced districts where parties are virtually equal? Not quite, but it is far better than 39 other states where legislatures still draw the lines (North Carolina and Ohio are among the worst). In those states even though the parties are virtually tied in number of voters, the Republicans have a 3:1 advantage. If you ever wondered why so many states in flyover country are colored red, this is why.

10 years of one-party rule

On paper, our prospects look good. The criteria by which maps are to be drawn takes into account a number of factors geared toward a form of balance (see Rules below). The 10-year census determines the number of districts based on population.

When getting into the weeds is good for your soul and your community

But what is on paper is not guaranteed without extensive public input and comment. The process is rife with political maneuvering on both sides and requires diligence, public pressure and sometimes legal pressure to achieve a modicum of balance.

What is the Arizona IRC?


The IRC is an independent commission consisting of five members—two Democrats, two Republicans and an Independent who serves as the Chair. The IRC hires a small staff, two law firms and a mapping consultant to assist with the community outreach and eventual mapping of Legislative and Congressional districts.

Currently, Arizona has nine Congressional Districts (CD) held by five Democrats and four Republicans. There are 30 LDs, each with a State senator and two House representatives. The current boundaries were set by the IRC in 2011 based on the 2010 census. How the boundaries are drawn determines how fairly Democrats or Republicans may be elected. Based on the new census data, Arizona may add a new congressional district bringing the total to 10.

Appointed members of the 2021 IRC are:


Erika Schupak Neuberg, Chair, Independent

Derrick Watchman, Vice-Chair, Democrat

Shereen Lerner, Commissioner, Democrat

David Mehl, Commissioner, Republican

Douglas York, Commissioner, Republican

The Commission is in the process of hiring additional staff and resources.

What are the rules for determining Congressional and State Legislative boundaries?

Based on Article 4, Part 2, Section 1, (14) of the Arizona Constitution, the following criteria will be used to establish districts.

a. Districts shall comply with the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act

b. Congressional districts shall have equal population to the extent practicable, and state legislative districts shall have equal population to the extent practical

c. Districts shall be geographically compact and contiguous to the extent practical

d. District boundaries shall respect communities of interest to the extent practical

e. To the extent practical, district lines shall use visible geographic features, city, town and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts:

f. To the extent practical, competitive districts should be favored where to do so would create no significant detriment to the other goals.

Controversy started on day one


Against all sense of fairness, it appears that the first hire—Brian Schmitt as Executive Director—is a Republican partisan. His resume is high on partisan politics and very low on relevant experience. He misled the Commissioners when he failed to disclose on his application his recent highly paid work for the Republican National Committee and Martha McSally. His hiring was a first in IRC history for not being elected unanimously but instead with a 3 to 2 vote, with the two Republicans and the Independent Chair voting in favor.

The Commission is set to hire two law firms, one from each party, and then a mapping consultant.

What is our role and responsibility as citizens?

We are the watchdogs to assure fair redistricting. Public scrutiny equals fairness. We are the ones to provide public comment. Public comment is available to us now and will be available throughout the process, and there will be public hearings later in the process.

Public meetings have been held previously throughout the state and are being discussed for this term. Once draft maps are created, we will want to see them, understand their make-up and comment on them. It does make a difference. We plan to keep you updated on this important process as it evolves.

How do I find current and past meetings, public involvement information?

IRC meeting agendas, meeting information, public involvement can be accessed at:

https://irc.az.gov



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