Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Redistricting -- testimony from first of the second round hearings UPDATED

The theme of the evening -- at Phoenix College's Bulpitt Auditorium in Tuesday's kick off to the second round of Public Outreach Hearings for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission -- was competitive districts.

Not quite three dozen citizens took the microphone to -- as Commissioner Freeman has characterized it -- show them the error of their ways. However, the overwhelming majority were generally supportive and the overarching theme was that the AIRC can and must do a better job at drawing competitive districts, especially for the state legislature.

Dennis Michael Burke, who was one of three individuals who worked together to draft Prop 106 as it appeared on the ballot in 2000, in promoting competitiveness, implored the commission to consider, as a touchstone, whether the maps they ultimately provide will enable every voter to know that his or her vote will matter.

Even though opponents have sometimes claimed that a call for competitive districts was "code" for wanting to give Democrats an advantage, John Beaulieu, chairman of LD15 Democrats in central Phoenix told me he believes a more competitive district would enable him to get more people involved in local campaigns and other district activities. Right now, LD15 is a safe Democratic district.

Here's what I told the commission last night:

As you know, I am concerned that the district maps you give us for the next ten years are made according to the Prop 106 mandate requiring you to draw fair and COMPETITIVE districts.

The draft maps you have adopted do NOT meet that constitutional requirement. The Congressional map provides 4 safe districts for Republicans, only two for Democrats (the two Voting Rights districts) and arguably only three are competitive. This is an unacceptable lack of compliance with the Arizona Constitution.

In addition, where I live on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, has been drawn into a very heavily Republican [Congressional] district. That, if left as is, disenfranchises me and my neighbors for the next ten years. To me, this is intolerable. I have shown you where I live during previous meetings and believe it is critical for you to correct this oversight.

As to the LEGISLATIVE draft map, the most optimistic view, as I could tell from the competitiveness report, is that only eight districts were even close to competitive. Eight is NOT enough.

I obtained from redistricting expert Tony Sissons, pursuant to news items he had published in 2010, background for his assertion that more than ten legislative districts could MORE EASILY THAN NOT be made competitive.

A map that I presented to you on Sunday in Tempe – and which I have posted on the Arizona Eagletarian – shows at least 12 competitive districts can be drawn because outside of Maricopa County, nearly equal numbers of voters are registered Democratic as opposed to Republican.

Therefore, I assert that you are legally required to provide substantively more competitive districts than the 3 to 8 that – depending on which index is used to measure it – would result from this draft legislative map.

As I have watched the process closely over the last year, I very much appreciate the personal sacrifices each of you have made and the hard work you have put into this process. I am confident, however, that on these maps, you can and must do better.

Thank you.
Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition co-chair Ken Clark spoke to the issue of making the draft maps and related data easier for citizens to work with in Maptitude. The idea is that in order for the 30 day comment period to be meaningful, people need the ability to provide specific suggestions on what changes CAN be made in order to better meet the required criteria and increase competitiveness.

Former LD8 Democratic chair Laura Copple cited the 2009 Arizona Supreme Court ruling in Arizona Minority Coalition for Fair Redistricting v the AIRC which specifies competitiveness is NOT a lesser criteria than the other five. Randall Holmes expounded on the history of gerrymandering and pointed out that favoring competitiveness over compactness, for example, does not constitute gerrymandering. This in response to claims over the last week or so that any lines the GOP doesn't like do constitute a gerrymander.  

Then there was tea partier Wes Harris. He threw together every complaint he's been spoon fed by the UNfair Trust, GOP activists and fellow tea partiers into a cauldron of bitter stew, rehashing things that months ago been shown to be ridiculous fantasy.

The "road show" continues this evening, 6pm at the Best Western Payson Inn, in Payson. Watch the live streaming video here. UPDATE (6:10pm Oct 12) -- AIRC staff advises that NO VIDEO will be available for tonight's hearing. No word yet on the reason, but hotels have had problems with internet access over the last several weeks.

Please plan to attend one or more of the hearings, there are 25 more scheduled throughout Arizona between now and November 5th.


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