Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Redistricting -- on the verge, or one small step for Arizona

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has met for several days in a row, including over the weekend, hashing out the legislative draft map. The commissioners will meet Monday morning in Tucson and if they are not able to adopt the draft map, they will also meet on Tuesday.

The bulk of the map drawing over the last few days was the result of cooperation between Freeman and McNulty. AIRC Public Information Officer Stu Robinson tweeted just after today's adjournment,
With Freeman, McNulty carrying the water, #AIRC carves out 30 potential districts. Mapping consultant to look at whether the numbers work.
To me, that implies adoption of the draft will take place tomorrow (Monday) unless substantive changes are needed.

Also over the last week, several citizens, elected officials, governmental staff and other advocates have spoken on the record on behalf of various jurisdictions in northern Arizona. Representatives from the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County Board of Supervisors, Flagstaff 40, Greater Arizona Success all emphatically called for competitive districts in the northland. The Navajo Nation, on the other hand, have without wavering, called for majority a Native American legislative district. As I understood, there were substantive negotiations. Hopefully, it will all lead to a win-win solution.

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Earlier today, I testified before the AIRC (again). This time, I presented background information I obtained from demographer and redistricting expert Tony Sissons. Because he had been published in the Arizona Guardian -- prior to the current commissioners even being screened by the Appellate Courts Commission on Appointments -- on the subject of competitive districts, I asked him for background on his claims.  

Sissons told me he believes that 12 competitive legislative districts can be drawn along with 10 Voting Rights Act districts. According to Sissons:

My assertion is based on the 'full analysis' of the half-truth that the first AIRC promoted and that the opponents of competition are still clinging to.  They contend that creating voting-rights districts uses up so many Democrats that there are not many left over to make more than three or four competitive districts.  A believable tale, until you look where concen-trations of Republicans live. 

The attached map shows seven legislative-sized districts covering a broad sweep of Maricopa County.  None of those illustrative districts can be made competitive because each is surrounded by more Republicans.  Even if you extend a district outside Maricopa County, you just run into either very sparse population, or communities that are also largely Republican. 
He said he has made this argument before the AIRC already but did not yet have the map. Today, I presented the argument and the map. And I plan to do it again at a couple of the second round hearings. Sissons also said:

My message to them, over and over, has been that while they have the prerogative to decide how many competitive districts to draw, they should be cognizant of the upper limit of that possibility. 
The text with the map says:
Districts A through G, each within 1% deviation from the ideal legislative district size, illustrate a broad sweep of Maricopa County that is safely Republican and cannot be made competitive because most of the surrounding precincts also have Republican majorities. These districts counter-balance the heavily Democratic Voting Rights Districts, leaving 14 to 16 districts worth of Arizona with almost equal Democratic and Republican registrations, in which territory, at least 12 competitive districts can be drawn.  
The portion of Maricopa County not designated with lettered districts mostly represents, as I understand it, Voting Rights Districts, either Majority-Minority or coalition (in which non-Hispanic Caucasians make up less than half of the population).

As an aside, Sissons has been working closely with Voting Rights Act preclearance consultant Bruce Adelson on redistricting for various political subdivisions in Arizona this year. To me, that lends credibility to Sissons claims.

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The next several weeks, I can only imagine, will be grueling for AIRC staff. They have scheduled 26 hearings starting Tuesday, October 11, 6pm at Phoenix College, 1202 W. Thomas Rd. The last of the hearings will take place on November 5, 10am in the Town of Green Valley (location TBA).

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Stephen Colbert, of the Colbert Report, in providing an apology of sorts to Karl Rove, puts some interesting perspective on what we've come to know, not quite affectionately, as UNfair Trust. Of course, the attorneys who have spoken on behalf of that clandestine lobbying group use the ironic name, Fair Trust. Please enjoy. The segment on Colbert's Super Pac starts at about 5:15 into the program. To view ONLY the clip in question, you may find it here.

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