The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission meeting began with the Chair presenting a new version of the "everything bagel" commissioners had worked on last week. On Friday, she wanted to push ahead but gave the appearance of being non-responsive to citizen concerns.
Today, Ms. Mathis reflected on some of those concerns after having spent a good bit of the weekend making further adjustments. The adjustments presented this morning were not limited to the Phoenix area (the so-called "donut hole"). They did significantly address objections raised by the Hispanic Coalition for Good Government. Attorney Peter Limperis, on behalf of HCGG, blessed the updated map.
This afternoon, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission adopted, on a 3-1-1 vote, after public comment the adjusted version of the "everything bagel" map. As its official Congressional Draft map, it is now subject to 30 days of citizen comment. Mathis, McNulty and Herrera voted Aye. Stertz was a Nay while Freeman abstained. Various data, including a competitiveness report can also be found by clicking corresponding links on the AIRC map page section on Congressional Map as of 10/02/11.
Discussion immediately prior to the vote took a tone similar to the state legislature explaining their votes on any given bill, but this took place before the motion to adopt. Freeman said he preferred they wait until they could adopt a map that represented their best effort at a final Congressional map. Stertz, on the other hand, detailed his view that the map disadvantaged Republicans, citing non-competitive registration numbers for each of the districts.
Herrera said he still believes the map favors Republicans to a degree. He didn't particularly like the options presented but in a spirit of cooperation would vote in favor. Freeman mentioned remembering Herrera use essentially the same language right before the votes on legal counsel and mapping consultant contracts.
I'll have several more reflections on today's meeting but I will not be able to post them until tomorrow afternoon. There were, however, political reporters from the AP (Paul Davenport), Arizona Capitol Times (Jeremy Duda), Arizona Republic (Mary Jo Pitzl) and Capitol Media Services (Howie Fischer) there today. The meeting, at Tempe's Fiesta Resort, started at 9:15am and finished at 7:45pm.
Paul Davenport wrote up a story on the map and deliberations. Mary Jo Pitzl wrote up a story on the hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court on Tom Horne's witchhunt (demand for investigative interviews), as did Arizona Capitol Times reporter Evan Wyloge, whose story, forwarded to me by a subscriber, is posted below.
Attorney General Tom Horne said today that he could seek the removal of the state’s redistricting commissioners as a result of his investigation into whether they violated open meeting laws in June.
And because the Independent Redistricting Commission is in the middle of such important work, he said he believes his lawsuit seeking to compel three commissioners to testify needs be sped up so that they could be removed if they are found to have violated open meetings laws.
“There is a major, major sense of urgency here,” Horne argued to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean M. Fink. “If remedies should be needed, the commission will say it’s too late in the process … we’re talking about the lines the state we’ll live with for the next 10 years.”
Horne said that although the Arizona Constitution says a redistricting commissioner can be removed by a two-thirds vote in the Senate with approval from the governor, there is legal precedent established that would allow the attorney general to seek removal as a remedy to open meeting law violations.
Horne said that former Attorney General Terry Goddard once had a water district commissioner and four school board members removed from office over open meeting law violations, and that he could do the same with the redistricting commissioners. Horne has previously said that violation of open meetings laws could result in as little as commissioners receiving training on the statutes.
Only the commission’s two Republicans have given Horne testimony about possible open meeting law violations. They allege in their testimony that in June independent Chairwoman Colleen Mathis tried to cajole them outside the commission’s public meetings to vote for its mapping firm, Strategic Telemetry, which has ties to Democratic candidates and campaigns.
One of the Republican commissioners, Richard Stertz, also told the AG’s office that Mathis shredded an initial scoring sheet used to evaluate the firms being considered.
The commission ultimately voted 3-2, with the two Democrats and Mathis voting for Strategic Telemetry and the two Republicans voting against it.
The commission’s two Democrats, José Herrera and Linda McNulty, as well as Mathis, have refused to submit to Horne’s probe so far, and filed a motion asking for a constitutional review of whether Horne can even pursue his investigation.
During the hearing, Paul Charlton, a former U.S. Attorney for Arizona under the Bush Administration and who is representing Mathis in the case, said he may seek a gag order against Horne because he believes Horne has inappropriately waged a media blitz to taint the commission in the middle of an ongoing investigation.
Horne rebutted by saying that he has only discussed the content of his filings, which are public documents, and that he has not done anything imprudent.
Horne told the judge that he is ready to argue the merits of his request to order the commissioners’ cooperation at any time, but Fink, who acknowledged Horne’s perceived need for haste, said that he wanted to make sure the numerous motions, cross-motions and responses involved in the case are properly crafted.
Before setting oral arguments for Nov. 7 and adjourning, Fink said he will try to keep politics out of the case, despite the difficulty in doing so.
“Politics is infused in all of this,” Fink said.
Prior to the end of the AIRC meeting this evening, Joe Kanefield, Republican legal counsel updated the commissioners on the situation. Prior to entering into executive session, Kanefield indicated that Judge Fink approved a motion to consolidate Horne's suit with the AIRC countersuit seeking to get Horne to back off.
The AIRC meets next at the Fiesta Resort in Tempe on Wednesday at 2pm, as well as Thursday and Friday at 9:30am.
More to come.