Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Redistricting -- Nap time is over UPDATED 11/30 4:15pm

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission convened at 1:35pm today with four (of the five) commissioners in attendence, about 75 people in the audience and with several media outlets present, including four television cameras.

However, in spite of the dramatic lead up, Jan Brewer succeeded in upstaging the IRC once again, issuing the following statement:

“Perhaps the most difficult part of being a leader is telling people what they don’t want to hear. This is one of those moments. I share the sentiments of Arizona voters concerned about the conduct of the Independent Redistricting Commission, especially its Chairwoman. Likewise, I am deeply concerned that this year’s redistricting process has not been conducted openly and in full accordance with the Arizona Constitution, and that the resulting maps may unfairly diminish the political influence of individual communities and the state as a whole.
“It was with those concerns in mind that I removed the Chairwoman from her post with the IRC. I stand by that action, and believe the Arizona Supreme Court grossly erred in returning the Chairwoman to the Commission. There may be another time to deal with the Court, but it’s important at a time like this that we keep our eyes on the bigger picture.
“Arizona voters created the Independent Redistricting Commission with their approval in 2000 of Proposition 106. I’ve seen no evidence to date that indicates voters are ready or willing to throw out the Commission structure. Moreover, the Legislature has yet to produce a consensus set of redistricting reforms to propose to voters.
“I am aware of the time urgency. I know that some legislators, especially those of my political family, are anxious for me to call a Special Session so that they may pursue a ballot proposal to repeal or reform Prop 106. But we cannot act in haste – or in anger – when it comes to something as critical as the way in which Arizona draws its congressional and legislative districts. Our action must be reasoned and rational, and there must be a defined path to victory with voters. I will not call a Special Session on this topic unless and until I believe those bars have been met.”

However, it appears Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell (Republican) and elections director Karen Osborne (Democrat) have a different understanding of urgency than Brewer and Arizona's brilliant GOP state lawmakers. Brewer, of course, was referring to the deadline before which a special session must be held if a measure could be put on the February 28th ballot (for REPUBLICAN Presidential Preference primary).

But the county elections officials told the Commission they need the final maps as soon as possible. If the AIRC delivers the maps to the Department of Justice for preclearance at the beginning of January, DOJ will have until March to decide whether they comply with the Voting Rights Act. Since nominating petitions must be submitted by candidates before the end of May, and county elections officials must have DOJ approved maps well before then, the urgency is paramount.

But the bonehead Republicans leading the House and Senate caucuses STILL want to put the question to voters instead.

Okay, back to the AIRC. Nap time is over. Right before the commission meeting was called to order, a source told me he had been told Stertz plans to do "something big" today. However, since Commissioner Freeman is otherwise occupied today (his wife gave birth to a wonderful baby boy just before noon), it was Stertz against the world. But he was in top form. As soon as Purcell and Osborne were gone, he started jawing about the fact that the Commission is moving TOO FAST.

Stertz was also testy and argumentative today. He had chosen his rhetoric in advance, declaring, "since we have not followed the Constitutional protocol" thus far... and since efforts to sabotage the IRC to this point have been beaten back by the Arizona Supreme Court, it seems like he's on a mission to set the stage for the next round of litigation.

IRC counsel Mary O'Grady quickly took issue with Stertz' claim about not following Constitutional protocol. And Herrera was having none of Stertz' efforts today, responding quite assertively that he is comfortable with the process as it has been carried out thus far and believes it IS time to move forward.  McNulty also asserted that she believes they have been and are on the right track. She specifically noted that she believes there are NOT any Constitutional deficiencies in the maps thus far.

On the other hand, Stertz sounded like he had been directly briefed by Lisa Hauser (who had been Brewer's lead counsel in the litigation involving Mathis' removal and reinstatement). Perhaps Stertz didn't get the memo that Hauser lost every aspect of the litigation. That's a significant clue that, despite her experience with the first AIRC, her legal advice may not be all it's cracked up to be.

Stertz also asked, "I want to discover something... are we going to set December 25th as an arbitrary completion date?" and "Are we going to take a day to define what some of the 'communities of interest' are?" Mathis' response, "I don't see a State Constitution Day for each criteria."

Herrera snapped back at Stertz a couple of times today. Twice, the two bickered with each other until Mathis said, "enough!"

At minimum, the bickering we heard this afternoon foreshadows how deliberations are likely to go over the next few weeks. So much for the Arizona Republic's demand for unanimous agreement on final maps. Stertz made it clear today he was not going to agree to anything proposed by Democrats.


Strategic Telemetry president Ken Strasma presented an analysis of racially polarized voting patterns in recent history. His handouts/Power Point slides will be available, according to AIRC staff, tomorrow or the next day. I will post a link to them when it becomes available. IRC counsel Joe Kanefield noted that what is being presenting now is only a draft and that the analysis will be refined.

Strategic Telemetry's Willie Desmond presented a summary of public input from the second round of hearings. More than 6,500 public comments have been received and cataloged by AIRC staff. More information will be available at soon (hopefully tomorrow).

Stertz asked about getting "a reconciliation of the cost of that litigation." When asked to clarify, Stertz said "cost to the state of Arizona." O'Grady said the IRC would not have the total cost for the state, as costs incurred by the Governor's office and the legislature would have to be gotten from them. As to costs incurred by the AIRC, Exec. Dir. Ray Bladine said not all of the bills have come in, but he's gotten similar requests from the Arizona Capitol Times and the Arizona Republic.

From his tone, it seemed obvious Stertz is looking for more ammunition for undermining the efforts of the Commission. But really, he should be shining his accountability spotlight at least as brightly on the antagonists in this drama, Brewer, Andy Tobin and the state senate.

Brewer, in her statement today, had to justify the stupidity with which she acted to remove Colleen Mathis from the AIRC. That much is to be expected, since she failed to count the cost before having Acting Gov. Ken Bennett call the legislature into session while she was on her book tour.

What's significant here, however, is that she had to acknowledge that the voters of Arizona have no intention to repeal Prop 106. Some also think that her statement about dealing with the Court another time is a veiled threat. But she does not really indicate what she means by the "bigger picture" that we must keep our eyes on. I think it's just a mechanism to deflect attention away from her phenomenal screw up in trying to undermine the AIRC to begin with.

What she does not say, but is easily and reasonably inferred is that -- in spite of the incredible amount of noise from GOP activists and tea partiers -- Arizonans overwhelmingly view what she did as an egregious, offensive act.

Brewer may not call a special session to try to get a repeal of Prop 106 put before voters, but that will not stop the legislature from trying it without her once the regular session begins in January. Expect someone like Frank Antenori or John Kavanagh to introduce a resolution to put the issue to voters in November 2012. They will not need either the governor's permission or approval to do it.

By the way, when time came for the Call to the Public, Mathis said she had seven requests to speak. Most of the people, however, had left much earlier, including several of the usual tea party suspects.

One young man, Chase Williams, eloquently called again for more competitive districts. He had spoken at the Scottsdale forum that was so rowdy last month. Then there was Jim Williams, a tea partier who has spoken out rudely at several AIRC meetings, including the first round hearing in Mesa. He may have been the guy that threatened someone who was calling for competitive districts. Anyway, THIS Mr. Williams spoke today and was remarkably polite. Earlier in the meeting, however, he yelled out at Commissioner Herrera when the bickering with Stertz was going on. An off-duty Maricopa County Sheriff's deputy (female) assertively confronted him and told him he had to either behave or leave. She got the point across. He did tell the commissioners that they would have to answer to Arizona voters if they didn't fix the maps.

One last thing for today -- now that the AIRC is back to work, nap time is over.

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