By order of state statutes, Pinal County voters will be electing a five member Board of Supervisors in 2012, based on population data gathered in the 2010 census.
As a result of the move to five districts, now is the time to figure out where the voting lines will go – a task that can last anywhere from six months or longer to get finalized. Pinal County Elections Director Steve Kizer is still waiting on the official numbers from the state.
“Estimates peg our current population at around 350,000,” Kizer said. “That will mean we will have five supervisor districts, each with about 70,000 people.”
Kizer pointed out that the lines are not drawn in a vacuum, but are carefully thought out to meet stringent requirements set by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Voting Rights Act and legal challenges through the years have resulted from redistricting efforts that did not take into account the careful consideration of certain protected classes.
Retrogression, or a diminishing of the ability of protected classes to be able to elect the candidate of their choice, is of particular concern in a diverse population such as Arizona’s.
“We must make sure that there is no retrogression for protected classes when we create the new voting districts,” Kizer stated.
He also said that other factors are looked at such as population demographics, communities of interest, contiguity and physical barriers.
“It’s a big job,” Kizer said. “That is why we have retained a consultant who is knowledgeable of the Department of Justice process to pre-clear our new districts so that the resulting election is fair and valid.”
With a major presidential election next year, the time for coming up with voting districts is an urgent matter for many states and counties throughout the nation.
“After the 2000 Census we had some time to develop lines and get the clearance from the Department of Justice,” Kizer said. “Now with the election only a year away, the timeline for getting everything done is compressed.”
The Elections Department hopes to get the final numbers on Pinal County’s population from the state in February or March. Between April and June, Elections will work closely with the county’s mapping staff to begin the process of drawing the lines. Kizer said he hopes to have the lines tentatively done between June and August.
At the direction of the Board of Supervisors, Kizer and his staff will be holding public meetings in major areas throughout the county to present various proposals for comment. The Elections Department will then present that information to the Supervisors.
“If everything goes right, we could be submitting the lines to the Department of Justice in September,” Kizer said. “We would hopefully hear back from them at the beginning of 2012.”