Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Redistricting -- where will it go from here?

There are several scenarios for the remainder of Arizona's redistricting process and how it might play out in the weeks and months to come.

In the morning, we will find out the next steps when the five Independent Redistricting Commissioners send their letters in response to last week's declaration of war by Jan Brewer.

There was a faint hope that those letters would be available this evening, but it looks now like no one will see them until after the 8am deadline our thoughtful and judicious governor arbitrarily set for tomorrow morning.

There seems to be little doubt that Jan acted before counting the cost. Nor does it appear she evaluated whether she would be able to find a graceful way out -- in the event it becomes obvious she stepped in a great big steaming pile of... well, dung. Which she clearly has.

AIRC legal counsel has been working on those response letters over the weekend. However, it appears that Jan really does not have to worry about whether any of the commissioners' acts or omissions rise to any legal standard definition of
substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of office.
Those are the only reasons, says the Arizona Constitution, a commissioner may be removed from office.

Substantial neglect of duty. There's no question that all five of the members of the commission have diligently attended to the duties for which they were appointed.

Inability to discharge the duties of office. Can anyone credibly argue that any of the members have been incapacitated to the extent they cannot discharge their duties?

That leaves "gross misconduct in office." That sounds like something that should be adjudicated in a trial court. But really, given the procedure spelled out in the language of Prop 106, it boils down to a political process that is materially equivalent to the impeachment that ousted Evan Mecham from the governor's office in 1988.

There were some who believed Mecham committed no crime other than repeatedly sticking his foot in his mouth, thereby giving Arizona a bad name nationally. Politically, Mecham was facing a recall effort that had the gathered enough verified signatures to force an election. He had galvanized public opinion against him, not only by making awkward statements, but also by making a dramatically unpopular political policy decision -- cancelling the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

To obviate the recall, the legislature found cause, convicted him and removed him from office. There was no judicial appeal, because it was a political process. The legislature had a great deal of political cover in 1988 to carry out that process.

There are clear and obvious parallels between the impeachment of Evan Mecham and the potential removal of one or more INDEPENDENT redistricting commissioners.

The process is similar, but the political climate in Arizona is VERY different today.

The governor and the state legislature have gouged Arizonans in the eye on numerous times since the Mecham era. On multiple occasions, voters mandated legalization or decriminalization of medical marijuana. The voters authorized widened health care coverage for indigent Arizonans. Brewer and the legislature defunded the program. That action is now the subject of litigation. Voters went so far as to tighten the parameters in which the legislature may amend voter approved measures, to prevent them from being negated.

Now Brewer and GOP legislative leadership have concocted an elaborate ruse for the purpose of undermining the will of the electorate once more.

The legislature was not taking much of a risk by impeaching Mecham. Public opinion was strongly against the governor at that time.

But Jan Brewer ONLY has hard core GOP partisans and tea partiers on her side. There is PLENTY of potential political risk for her. Though she will not be eligible for an additional 4-year term, she still may have a lot to lose. If, as the Yellow Sheet reported last week, her declaration of war was done at the urging of Arizona's GOP Congressional delegation, could they have made her an offer that will sufficiently mitigate the public opinion hit she will take by so blatantly disrespecting Arizona's voters?

Jan, did you even consider the political ramifications?

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