Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Redistricting -- latest attacks on Prop 106

According to her sham facebook group page, Arizona's own "Proud, Terri" is scheduled to appear on the Jon Justice radio show in Tucson to talk about "the IRC and repealing Prop 106."

Last week, she made news by calling for a special legislative session to have a measure put on the ballot for a special election to repeal the voter approved Independent Redistricting Commission  She apparently didn't know at that time how she wanted the redistricting to be handled.  I wonder if she will have it figured out by morning.

News stories thus far have indicated the governor is reluctant to take the bait people are dangling in front of her to remove AIRC Chair Colleen Mathis.  But people like Proud, Terri and Frank Antenori do not seem to think the law, the Arizona Constitution or the will of the Arizona voter matters.  They are not yet ready to give up.

Set aside for now the idea that other critics of the AIRC have already suggested the end of the world is at hand because this year's commission is a few weeks behind the pace set in 2001. 

Has any of those people given any thought to what it will do to the timeline if the Chair is removed, or any other roadblock of their design comes into play?  Or maybe the criticism of the timeline is not the actual underlying concern?

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Early on Monday evening, I re-read Scott Freeman's notes from the mapping consultant interviews.  Something he said about Tony Sissons and Research Advisory Services caught my attention. On page 13 of this PDF, Freeman says,
In its responses, RAS presumes that DOJ [US Department of Justice] preclearance will be pursued. Although the Commission might might elect to pursue preclearance through DOJ, that is not the Commission's only option. 
To refresh the reader on this issue, Arizona is required to submit all legislative and Congressional redistricting plans for preclearance to determine the state has complied with provisions of the Voting Rights Act.  The concern is to ensure no covered minority population suffers any diminished ability to elect the representatives of its choosing.

Traditionally, preclearance has been pursued by way of DOJ review of the planned maps with documentation as to how decisions on where to draw the district lines is made.

Under what conditions would the AIRC NOT choose to pursue preclearance through DOJ, and what is the alternative?

There has been a steady trickle of news stories over the last six months about GOP concerns throughout the country with how the Obama administration's DOJ would handle preclearance.  A common thread in those reports is that hard core Republican interests, when possible, want to bypass DOJ and seek approval in a federal district court.  Chatter on right-wing blogs and comments on news stories on Arizona sites has been highlighting the concerns Proud, Terri is seeking to amplify.  Typically, those blogs and comments are suggesting that "the courts are going to end up drawing our maps." 

Counties in Arizona are facing similar issues as they redraw supervisorial districts. Pinal County's situation at least partially illustrates why the GOP is concerned about the DOJ.  And because the preclearance consultant referenced in the azcentral story is also a subcontractor with Ballard Spahr, the Republican legal counsel to the AIRC, that might explain some of the GOP posturing we've seen since the legal services contract was awarded.  

And given Commissioner Scott Freeman's notes on the Research Advisory Services interview before the AIRC, one might reasonably wonder if someone is trying to give him marching orders.  After all, it's widely believed that 2001 AIRC Commissioner Joshua Hall, appointed by Democratic lawmaker Jack Brown, had his orders to ensure Brown had a safe district when the maps were drawn ten years ago.  By all accounts, it seems obvious Hall delivered for Mr. Brown.

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Jack Harper acknowledged, when I spoke with him at a recent AIRC meeting, the GOP was woefully unprepared for the IRC process when it started last fall with screening of applicants to become Commissioners.  If the Tea Party and other GOP interests put all their eggs in the basket being carried by Proud, Terri, they will likely be caught unprepared for the rest of the process.  And in the next few days, a  very important aspect of the process will begin.

Those folks are welcome to go to the Public Outreach Hearings, scheduled throughout the state, and tell the AIRC what they want to see done as the new districts are drawn.

The mapping consultant will be compiling all of the public testimony.  That will be a major part of the preclearance package.  Will they be caught complaining about tangential issues or will they present cogent arguments on who their "community of interest" is?

After I posted last night's blog, Tony Sissons posted a comment on my facebook page to elaborate on his statements regarding use of communities of interest as code for safe districts.

Steve, thank you for the kind words. I'd like to elaborate a little on my "code" comment. In the months leading up to the state process, I was contacted by three Republicans curious about columns I'd written for political news websites. They wanted to know why I thought it possible to have competitive districts in light of "the AIRC's obligation to follow the constitution and protect communities of interest".


My explanation was that communities of interest are identified and delineated in order to protect them from being divided with new district boundaries or placed in new districts where their voting strength would be muted. My callers had a different take. To them, communities of interest are geographical units of like-mindedness that must be identified so they can be linked together to create swaths of 'ideological homelands' (My term, not theirs). I was familiar with that line of thinking, having followed the first commission and having sat through much of the competitiveness trial.


As the process was getting started, and before I made my proposal, I observed that the political parties have instilled that connection in the minds of many of the folks addressing the AIRC in the public comment section of the agenda. If communities of interest, as these folks conceive of them, are incompatible with partisan competition, then protecting communities of interest must mean protecting safe districts.
So, I thank Tony for his explanation.

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