As the charcoals cool and the fireworks fade after another Independence Day celebration of our ideals of freedom and equality, a specter remains: the gerrymander, poised to deny voters an equal voice in their elections for yet another decade.
The trouble begins with two seemingly innocent facts: The Constitution requires a census of the population every 10 years, and the 14th Amendment requires that states and cities redistrict legislative lines so that they have the same number of residents per representative. Such population corrections to district lines might seem relatively benign - a task for a few computer-savvy interns able to move the necessary thousands of people from one district to another based on some reasonable criteria.
But redistricting instead has become the worst of political blood sports because of the power it gives to those who draw those lines. In the United States, we elect nearly all our legislators by winner-take-all rules, where 51% of voters earn 100% of representation. The power to suppress the voices of as many of 49% of voices in a given area has been an irresistible temptation to our leaders for two centuries...(Milwaukee Journal Sentinal July 10, 2010)Bloodsport or blood sport is any sport or entertainment that involves violence against animals.
It is also the title of a 1988 Jeanne Claude Van Damme movie.
Last Thursday's AIRC meeting in Tucson kinda conjures up the image of Van Damme for me.
Every one of the five commissioners, to one degree or another, felt like they were under attack that afternoon. Let's hope they all re-energized over the holiday weekend.
Apparently, a group called something like Citizens for Common Sense Redistricting (led in Thursday's meeting by GOP state committeeman (at least according to his Linked In profile) Ken Moyes has done some organizing hoping to intimidate the AIRC.
Word also came today that GOP Speaker of the (Arizona) House Andy Tobin rattled his sabre a little bit. Tobin issued a letter that says, in part, "I want you to know that we are monitoring this situation closely and that all options to protect the public from a process being stolen by Democrats will be on the table."
Moyes imagines a future Arizona in which his fear (that he wants YOU to share) is the "disenfranchising [of] a host of Arizona voters."
Of course, neither Moyes nor Tobin dare recount the history of the first AIRC. It is a fact right now that 46 percent of Arizona voters have NO say in legislative races after the primary election. That includes all party registrations and is mainly because so few districts have competitive balance.
Tea Party commenters last week went so far as to claim that use of the term "competitiveness" was code for some kind of nefarious way to disenfranchise voters. I dare them to explain how establishing districts where politicians have to appeal to a broader base of voters equates to disenfranchising those very voters.
Also -- the next meeting of the AIRC will be on Friday morning, somewhere at or near the Capitol. Time and exact location are still to be determined. I will update in the morning when that info is available.