Prior to deliberating, the AIRC took public testimony. Wes Harris admonished the AIRC saying that the harsh "publicity" the last couple of days was self-inflicted and would have been completely avoided if they had waited just one more day, adopting the Congressional Draft map on Tuesday instead of Monday. Just to make sure I didn't misunderstand him, during the next recess, I asked him about it. He emphatically said he did believe that the entire attack would have been prevented with a Tuesday vote instead of Monday. Tell me, is Harris' assessment of the situation correct?
Various interests from northern Arizona also testified about progress of negotiations between business and city/county governments and the Navajo Nation. Flagstaff mayor Sara Pressler and Navajo Human Rights Commission Exec. Director Leonard Gorman indicated the two sides are close to agreement on what to propose to the AIRC. On the other hand, retiree Shirley Dye said that conservative residents and business leaders in that region are not necessarily represented by either Pressler or the Navajo.
After the initial public comment period, discussion about the maps revolved around working to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Besides trying out several possible legislative district line locations and seemingly endless repetition of how many people too many or too few does this change (or that one) make it, Strategic Telemetry staffer Willie Desmond explained various definitions related to the Voting Rights Act. For example, Desmond expounded on the difference between coalition districts (where different minority groups combine to exceed half of the voting population) and plurality districts (where there is a particular minority population with more voters than other ethnic groups in that district).
Republican and Democratic legal counsel variously explained their understanding of the implications of proposed line changes. They also considered various ways to satisfy VRA requirements. Joe Kanefield said he believes they may need to draw 10 Voting Rights districts to obtain preclearance. He wants to get DOJ preclearance consultant Bruce Adelson's insight as soon as possible. He said Adelson might be able to participate in tomorrow's meeting remotely (perhaps by skype).
In the event they cannot come to an agreement on the legislative draft map by the time they adjourn on Friday, the AIRC posted meeting notice and agendas today for Saturday and Sunday at the Sheraton Airport Phoenix (which is in Tempe) and for Monday in Tucson.
If I can get my motor running early enough in the morning, I'll provide some excerpts from today's Yellow Sheet with my reflections on them. The two major topics in the YS are the GOP complaints about the AIRC (especially, but not only limited to the Congressional Draft maps) and the Pearce Recall and Olivia Cortes' withdrawing her name today from the election.
Among the YS fodder, Gov Brewer apparently now has gone so far as to threaten to remove Colleen Mathis from the AIRC; and former AIRC legal counsel Lisa Hauser weighed in on the progress of this year's commission. Stay tuned!