Because I missed Monday's meeting, I asked, before the start, if they had made any progress. Freeman said they only made a little. They did not make much more today. However, looking for things to say to their subscribers, the Yellow Sheet Report decided that a couple of quotes provided adequate basis for an outrageous bit of conjecture.
YS quoted Herrera as saying he did not want competitiveness to be an afterthought like it had been with the first AIRC. No problem with that, as Herrera has consistently declared his intent to advocate along those lines.
The commissioners discussed the relative merits of the Prop 106 criteria as well as the relative merits of various sets of data for deciding how to measure the competitiveness of the maps they adopt. Stertz said, "I’m a huge fan of competitiveness, but I just want to know the data that supports it." That has to be a figure of speech. Anybody that has been following AIRC discussion since March knows Stertz is very much NOT a fan of competitiveness. He has made a point of indicating that it is the only one of the six criteria that the constitutional language sets limits, "where to do so would create no significant detriment to the other goals."
The figure of speech "oxymoron" is defined as
A rhetorical figure by which contradictory or incongruous terms are conjoined so as to give point to the statement or expression; an expression, in its superficial or literal meaning self-contradictory or absurd, but involving a point. (Now often loosely or erroneously used as if merely = a contradiction in terms, an incongruous conjunction.)-- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edStertz' comment may or may not actually be an oxymoron, but I do believe he was making a point, rather than just misstating his values and views about the Prop 106 criteria.
During discussion, McNulty said she was “looking to build communities,” a statement that, according to the great minds at YS, "could signal her support for less competitive districts that are more focused on complying with the Voting Rights Act." Frankly, to suggest at all that McNulty will consider compromising on competitiveness is nothing more than a partisan pipe dream.
Further, to suggest that compliance with the VRA is mutually exclusive of the ability to make competitive districts reflects, at this stage, willful ignorance. Demographer and redistricting expert Tony Sissons, more than eight months ago, demonstrated how the two AIRC goals were compatible. Sissons' essay was published in the Arizona Guardian as well as on the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition's website.
When I talked with her about competitiveness today, McNulty reflected on the complicated nature of measuring it, but gave not even the slightest indication she has changed her position on the ultimate goal and intent of the AIRC and her service on it.
By the way, barely a dozen members of the public showed up to observe the proceedings in person. Though the audience was small, there were still people wanting to go on the record with public testimony. For you, I'll highlight that of Linda Green, speaking only on behalf of herself, a Pima County voter (who lives in LD26 and CD8), who did not identify any political affiliation.
Green eloquently commended all five commissioners for the respect they show each other during discussion and deliberation. She also said something that has eluded the entire discussion since these five took the oath of office last winter. Yes, it was still winter.
Hundreds of Arizona citizens have cited the importance of competitive districts. Many also have tried to minimize the significance and still others have made the suspect claim that over the last decade, Arizona has enjoyed a legitimately competitive political environment based on district lines. Today, when Linda Green spoke, it is the first time I recall anyone pointing out the PURPOSE that was actually spelled out in the official language of Prop 106 in the 2000 general election.
Maybe I was not listening. Maybe the time just wasn't right for the message to click in my mind if it was said aloud. But THIS is the OFFICIAL PURPOSE for the language voters approved by a solid majority:
PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA; AMENDING ARTICLE IV, PART 2, SECTION 1, CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA; RELATING TO ENDING THE PRACTICE OF GERRYMANDERING AND IMPROVING VOTER AND CANDIDATE PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS BY CREATING AN INDEPENDENT COMMISSION OF BALANCED APPOINTMENTS TO OVERSEE THE MAPPING OF FAIR AND COMPETITIVE CONGRESSIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS.The all caps was in the original, other emphasis is mine.
Regardless of the fact that the maps drawn by the 2001 AIRC were denied preclearance by the Bush Administration's Department of Justice the first time they were submitted; despite the fact that the maps were subject to litigation that was not finished until 2009, there is clear and ample evidence that the 2001 AIRC failed in the charge cited above.
The next challenge facing the AIRC in its current quest to fulfill the voter mandate is to figure out how to legitimately measure the degree of competitiveness of proposed districts. There are tools available to assist them in this task.
I will write about them, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.
In the meantime, the next meeting is Thursday noon at the Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Ave. (at Encanto, halfway between McDowell and Thomas Roads). Friday, they meet at 10am at the Fiesta Resort and Conference Center, Broadway and Priest Roads in Tempe. Next week, meetings are tentatively scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Locations to be determined. Agendas here.