Because most of the preliminaries are behind us, Arizona's newspapers are showing more interest in what's going on with the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Well, not really. Yes, more reporters showed up for Thursday afternoon/evening's meeting. But it's probably because Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has turned up the political tension a few notches this week.
On Wednesday, Horne filed an enforcement action in Maricopa County Superior Court to compel AIRC Commissioners Mathis, Herrera and McNulty to meet with AG investigators to answer questions about allegations of violations of Arizona's Open Meeting law. When I receive copies of his filing, I will post them for the Arizona Eagletarian readers to examine.
In the meantime, Horne's interview on Wednesday's (KAET Channel 8) Horizon is available online. There are several discrepancies in what Horne says in the interview trying to deny the political nature of his "investigation." Underscoring the irony of his denial is that he was scheduled to speak on Thursday evening to a GOP group at a Scottsdale public library about Arizona's redistricting process this year. Because the AIRC meeting in Tempe was still in session, I don't know how Horne's talk went. Hopefully, I'll be able to find out and report on it today.
In the meantime, the Arizona Capitol Times ran an AP story on the controversy.
During Thursday's meeting, legal counsel Joe Kanefield and Bruce Adelson made recommendation for treatment of prison populations. They said that the safest option is to count prisoners as living in the physical location of the facility but to not count them in the HVAP (Hispanic Voting Age Population). To show that proposed maps neither intend nor actually cause the voting strength of Arizona Hispanic voters to be diluted, excluding prisoners from HVAP will increase the likelihood of approval by DOJ on the first try.
The AIRC made no decisions Thursday on where lines would be drawn for DRAFT maps that will be presented to Arizona voters for comment later this month.
Herrera in mapping deliberation, again stated his concern that while he knows Voting Rights Act considerations are top priority, he is still concerned that they do not allow maps to be drawn that would constitute packing of minority voters at the expense of competitive districts.
Freeman attended the meeting by telephone, as he was in California on business yesterday. Through the distance, however, the sparks between him and Herrera were still easy to detect. In response to Herrera's statements on competitiveness, Freeman pointed out that "significant detriment" is not license to ignore the other five criteria. Significant detriment, of course, being a subjective qualifier when considering competitiveness.
Expect the tension between the two, Freeman and Herrera, to continue throughout the rest of the process. Though intriguing, that tension is not a bad thing. As the deliberations play out, this tension will serve to raise the level of discussion by causing each of the commissioners to be vigilent and assertive on key details and aspects necessary to a quality outcome.
Later today, the commission meets again in Tucson (3pm) and will continue deliberations. A couple of items from Thursday's meeting were also tabled to be taken up today also, including discussion and action on having commissioners disclose contact with people wanting to lobby them on district lines.
The court documents filed by AG Tom Horne are available for you to read at the Arizona Capitol Times website here and here. AIRC Exec. Dir. Bladine told me that commission counsel has been instructed to file responses to Horne's petition. Hopefully, those will be filed (and made available to the public) within the next couple of weeks. At this time, I understand a hearing has been scheduled for early October. I will keep you posted as I receive more information.