Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Redistricting -- how does one measure success?

Now that the final Congressional and legislative maps have been certified by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, a different look back at the process begins.

Before even sinking one's teeth into the implications and ramifications of the maps, we can start by considering some interesting numbers. On the AIRC website, you'll be able to review statistics on website traffic, email newsletter sign ups, streaming video traffic and miles driven on state motor pool vehicles. These figures give an idea of the amount of interest and citizen participation in the process since it began to gear up in late 2010 (it was a LOT).

Corporate media, of course, jumped on the maps and started speculating about potential match ups, especially for Congress, as soon as the first draft maps were issued. Come to think about it, the speculation began even earlier. Then Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Republican Kirk Adams resigned his seat in the legislature to prepare a run for Congress. Early scuttlebutt had him facing off with former Congressman (and 2002 gubernatorial candidate) Matt Salmon.

As soon as the AIRC had maps for people to fantasize over, consternation over the fact that incumbent Republicans Ben Quayle and David Schweikert might be lumped into the same district replaced murmuring over Adams and Salmon.

From my perspective, such speculating does not accomplish anything except tickle the fancy of partisans.

Then today, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords announced she would resign her seat this week. Immediately, media prognosticators began speculation. Pursuant to A.R.S. §16-222, there must be a special election to fill the seat. That means the currently Republican leaning district could be filled by a Republican, who would then face re-election in the new Second Congressional District which looks a significantly more competitive.

I will leave further speculation, including hypothetical candidates and matchups for that race to other media.

Nevertheless, the AIRC listened to what citizens told them during the course of two rounds of public hearings, numerous business meetings and written testimony and comments submitted by email or website input form, highlights include:

  • Draw two primarily (as much as possible) rural Congressional districts. This came up emphatically at first round outreach hearings outside of the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas.
  • Non-Hispanic voters in Yuma County (many of them, anyway) emphatically said they did not want to be represented in Congress by Democrat Raul Grijalva. Subsequently, to accommodate them, as well as to protect those covered by Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, Yuma was split.
  • Flagstaff business and community leaders, together with officials from the Navajo Nation, worked to compromise and provide a competitive district in northern Arizona.
  • A new competitive Congressional district in the Phoenix area.
Of course, in the complex process of drawing new maps, the biggest challenge is, has been and will always be how to balance all of the criteria without causing "significant detriment" to any of them. Or rather, significantly MORE detriment to one criteria than another.

People with parochial interests will, as we have seen, scream when their oxen get gored. A good faith effort to draw three Congressional districts touching the border with Mexico drew vehement opposition from people over a wide spectrum of political views in Cochise County.

Ultimately, there is no question in my mind that the current AIRC deliberated openly, in good faith and produced a result that will certainly bother a lot of people. I still do not subscribe to the notion that success can be measured by drawing opposition from "both" sides. It would be difficult to put two specific sides into predetermined boxes for this purpose. People who complained all the way through are likely to still complain. Simplistic reporting of off the cuff sound bites from perturbed lawmakers, city councils or county supervisors will provide little insight.

The end result could, theoretically, always be better. They could most definitely have been worse. An Arizona demographer and long-time redistricting consultant believes we could have gotten another competitive Congressional district and quite a few more competitive legislative districts. Some counties believe they got a raw deal because they will have multiple representatives in Congress and in the state legislature. But NONE of them presented any academic or scholarly evidence that "splitting" their jurisdiction will "dilute their voice" in the respective lawmaking bodies.

Ultimately, we may not know until years from now just how good a job Mathis, Freeman, McNulty, Stertz and Herrera did. Will public policy in Arizona be driven by a minority of voters like it has over the last decade? Whether or not that changes may be the only measurement we'll ever have. But then again, we might find out sooner if DOJ declines to provide preclearance on the first try or anyone challenges the maps in court and succeeds in forcing any changes. However, I believe the probability of either of those two complicating scenarios presenting themselves is low.    


  1. Steven,

    I agree. Though I would have preferred all of the districts being competitive, it just wasn't going to be reality. There is just too much of a concentration of liberal voters in Phoenix and Tuscon. Add in that I believe the majority of "independents" tend to vote Republican getting 9 competitive districts out of Arizona would require massive gerrymandering.

    I just hate the fact that for the last 10 years and for the next 10 years I won't be able to have a Democrat as my representative (currently CD3 and will soon be CD6).

    With that being said, I think the D.O.J. will give its thumbs up on the new maps. I think also that the Republicans will see that going to court would be a waste of time and money. The AIRC did their job and its as near as perfect as can be.

    Now, can we work on creating two more Phoenix City Council districts? *grin* And at least two more Maricopa County Board districts?

  2. Except that the concept of gerrymandering -- drawing lines to provide advantage -- for a particular candidate or political party does not encompass the process of drawing fair and competitive districts.

    1. True and after posting I realized I used a poor choice of words. I think we would agree though that for all of districts to be competitive they wouldn't be nice and compact. Jigsaw puzzle pieces would look better.

  3. A spot on perspective and an excellent final summary of the IRC's efforts. You did a great job with factual and consistent coverage of the whole process. Thanks Steve.