The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is drawing criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, who have expressed concerns over how proposed borders for the state’s legislative districts have been redrawn.
In a 4-1 vote on Oct. 10, the commission adopted a draft legislative-district map. The draft is the result of collaboration between commissioners Scott Freeman, a Republican from Maricopa County, and Linda McNulty, a Democrat out of Pima County.
“They both rose to the occasion in a huge way,” said AIRC Chairwoman Colleen Mathis. “Now people have something they can evaluate.”
Arizonans will now have the opportunity to comment on the map, which proposes how the state’s 30 legislative district boundaries should be drawn moving forward.
The commission is hosting a 30-day comment period with meetings scheduled across the state, including a Tucson meeting on Monday, Oct. 24. The meeting will be held in the North Ballroom of the University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center, 1303 E. University Blvd.
Another public meeting will be held in the Town of Marana on Friday, Nov. 4, starting at 6 p.m. at the Marana Municipal Complex auditorium, 11555 W. Civic Center Drive.
District 26 Rep. Vic Williams said he’s not happy with how the commission worked to create the district map, questioning the ethics and politics that went into the process.
“What was supposed to be a process of policing our political map has failed,” he said. “At one time you had the state’s legislature making these decisions, and we are held accountable by voters. Now, you have given all the power to this one commission who is accountable to no one. It is obvious that the woman (Mathis) has a Democratic agenda.”
District 26 Senator Al Melvin agreed with Williams that the 90 lawmakers elected to state office should have led efforts to redraw district boundaries instead of an independent commission comprised of two Democrats, two Republicans and one independent.
Williams said he encourages residents to attend as many public hearings over the next month as possible to voice concerns over how the map was drawn, and how it will impact their lives in the future.
One concern being voiced by Republicans is how the district lines were drawn, pinning many of the state’s incumbents against each other. In District 30, Tucson Senator Frank Antenori could be going up against fellow District 25 Senator Gail Griffin, a Republican from Sierra Vista.
If the districts remain the way the commission is currently drawn, several current lawmakers will be out of a job after the 2012 elections.
The most prominent change comes in the district east of Mesa where Senate President Russell Pearce holds office in the largely Republican district. With the altered district boundaries, Pearce would face GOP Senator Rich Crandall in the next election.
In District 26, Melvin said he is pleased with how the boundary lines have been drawn.
Williams said in the end, neither party will really win any battles, while noting he felt the real losers are the citizens.
“At the end of the day as an elected official I will deal with the hand that is dealt to me,” said Williams, who recently formed an exploratory committee to consider running for the Pima County Board of Supervisors in 2012.
Democrats are also affected. The map puts three Democratic House members in Phoenix into a potential primary race with Minority Leader Chad Campbell and Reps. Lela Alston and Katie Hobbs.
In Tucson, three Democratic House members are in District 2: Matt Heinz, Daniel Patterson and Macario Saldate.
In a press release dated Oct. 10, Luis Heredia, executive director of the Democratic Party, expressed dismay that the legislative district draft map seems to include only four competitive districts, out of the 30 possible districts.
“The legislative draft map adopted by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission lacks competitive districts and is a giant step backward, as drawn. Without more competition, extremists will continue to get elected and will discourage independent voters from having any say in Arizona’s future.
“Voters want competition, but politicians want the status quo,” he continued. “We call on this commission to side with voters instead of politicians. After all, it’s the voters who will be stuck with the consequences for the next 10 years. During the 30-day public comment period, we strongly urge citizens to make their voices heard and tell this commission that competition is good for Arizona.”
Gov. Jan Brewer also released a statement, saying that the districts have been drawn largely to favor Democrats.
At the congressional level, Senators Jon Kyle and John McCain also expressed concerns over how the lines have been drawn.
At the local level, Josh Wright, Marana’s director of strategic initiatives, said the Marana Town Council has some concerns over how the federal district lines have been drawn. He noted the council has not had the opportunity to discuss the map for the state’s legislative boundary proposals.
Wright said the only concern with the federal boundaries is the Town of Marana falls under two separate districts, and the town council would rather the entire town be placed under the direction of one congressional district.
The independent commission oversees how the new district boundaries are drawn based on an voter initiative approved in 2000.
Proposition 106 amends the Arizona Constitution to create a five-member commission to redraw congressional and legislative boundaries. Previously, the State Legislature was responsible for redrawing the lines.
Melvin said he wouldn’t be surprised if the GOP leads an effort to put the issue back on the ballot in the 2012 elections to put the power back in the and of state lawmakers.
The commission, which was appointed following the 2010 Census, has come under fire in recent months with Republicans accusing the Democrats on the board of violating open meeting laws.
Attorney General Tom Horne looked into the accusations, but the Democrats on the board refused to answer questions. Horne recently filed a petition with the court to require the board members to answer questions.
Members of the commission have filed a separate petition with the court, stating Horne has no authority in the matter.
Monday, Oct. 24
City of Tucson – University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center, North Ballroom, 1303 E. University Blvd.
Time: 6 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 4
Town of Marana – Marana Municipal Complex Auditorium, 11555 W. Civic Drive
Time: 6 p.m.