Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Redistricting -- Results of the Long Tedious Process

Within the last thirty-six hours, the Arizona Republic and Associated Press called the last of our state's federal office races, declaring that Democrat Ron Barber had an insurmountable lead over Republican Martha McSally for the seat representing Arizona's new Second Congressional District.

Republican challenger Martha McSally on Saturday conceded defeat in her hard-fought race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, bringing closure to Arizona’s final pending congressional election and giving Democrats a five-to-four advantage in the state’s House delegation in the next Congress.
Barber’s narrow victory in southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District helps him emerge from the shadow of his former boss and predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, by giving him a full, two-year House term of his own. It also means that for only the second time since the mid-1960s, Democrats will outnumber Republicans in Arizona’s new nine-member U.S. House delegation. Republicans overall, however, are in the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and will continue to control the chamber. (emphasis added)
The five Democrats represent the two Voting Rights Districts (Raul Grijalva CD 3 and Ed Pastor CD 7) and the three competitive districts (Arizona's First, Second and Ninth).

Here's how the voter registration numbers compare to the latest vote tallies for CD 1, 2 and 9 (unofficial vote count updated 12/2 with totals last updated by the Secretary of State on 11/28):

Arizona's First Congressional District:

Ann Kirkpatrick (D) -- 122,216 122,774 (48.75 %)
Jonathan Paton (R) -- 112,868 113,594 (45.10 %)
Kim Allen (L) -- 15,161 15,227 (6.05%)

Registered Voters:
Democrat -- 142,137
Republican -- 114,303
Other -- 110,285
Libertarian -- 2,334
Green -- 582


Arizona's Second Congressional District:

Ron Barber (D) -- 143,173 147,338 (50.32 %)
Martha McSally (R) -- 141,771 144,884 (49.48%)

Registered Voters:
Democrat -- 132,562
Republican -- 136,587
Other -- 119,972
Libertarian -- 2,647
Green -- 968

Arizona's Ninth Congressional District:

Kyrsten Sinema (D) -- 115,808 121,881 (48.66 %)
Vernon Parker (R) -- 107,387 111,630 (44.56 %)
Powell Gamill (L) -- 15,608 16,620 (6.63%)

Registered Voters:
Democrat -- 107,123
Republican -- 118,077
Other -- 115,532
Libertarian -- 3,232
Green -- 761

The voter registration numbers are the latest update published by Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. His website also prominently proclaims that the official canvass will be published on December 3.

After the official canvass is published, more analysis will be possible. At minimum, I plan to compare voter registration with election results for all nine Congressional districts and all thirty legislative districts.

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I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the GOP in Arizona still is grousing and expressing sour grapes about the maps drawn and approved by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission last January (and precleared by the US Dept. of Justice for compliance with the Voting Rights Act).

In contrast, Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition co-chair Ken Clark told the AP:
But Clark said he’s convinced the commission was too cautious and went overboard in creating minority-dominated districts to satisfy the federal Voting Rights Act.
That meant voters registered as Democrats couldn't be placed in another Phoenix-area district to make it more competitive, he said. “That was a lost opportunity for voters to have more choices.”
Nevertheless, litigation is still pending which challenges the legislative district map in federal court. The Congressional map challenge, which was conditionally dismissed in Maricopa County Superior Court last month was refiled on November 9.

Whether the "second amended complaint" is any more substantive than the first is still a question. On first glance, the first allegation in this latest brief still seems dubious at best.
Although the constitution requires that the AIRC begin the mapping process by creating districts of equal population in a grid-like pattern across the state before making any adjustments to accommodate the six constitutional goals, the AIRC violated the constitution by considering factors other than equal population in selecting the Congressional Grid Map. (Congressional Grid Map (Ex. 5, First Am. Comp.)). 
By considering the merits of each of the two proposed Grid Maps instead of arbitrarily choosing one, the Commission's constitutional violation was inevitable as it considered various other, non-population features of the proposed Grid Maps under consideration. (emphasis added)
To me, this claim seems specious right off the bat. Indeed, looking back at the proceedings, I described them here and here. The only thing that could possibly be considered NOT simply arbitrary is that after Commissioner Stertz's motion to adopt one particular set of grid maps over the other is opening the floor to citizen testimony/public comment prior to taking the vote on which to adopt.

But let's digress for a moment.

In the midst of the machinations leading to adoption of grid maps and the initial development of draft maps, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor addressed the AIRC. This is a good time to reflect on what she had to say to encourage the five IRC commissioners as they began deliberations on map drawing:
Citing the increasingly polarized political climate in our country, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on Wednesday encouraged members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to work together to develop consensus on fair and appropriate redistricting.
Other highlights of her talk included telling the commissioners to expect a lot of criticism and unwanted publicity. But, she said, this is not a popularity contest.  "Arizona is fortunate to have the law it now has on redistricting, and it looks like a good one to me," O'Connor said.
"I think voters sent a special message that we want to take partisan politics out of the redistricting process and create fair representation in our legislative and Congressional districts.  The citizens of Arizona have confidence in you that you will draw boundaries that will not favor any particular elected official, political party or special interest.  Don't give up.  Do it well. We'll thank you later. Good luck to all of you."
Of course, her words were, indeed, prophetic. There had already been a good deal of controversy and criticism by that point in the redistricting process. Yet, a hell of a lot more was on the horizon, coming down the pike, so to speak, like a runaway locomotive. Okay, how many more metaphors can I mangle in trying to describe the chaos the GOP intentionally stirred up hoping to derail Arizona's 2011 redistricting cycle?

Nevertheless, during these meetings in particular, UNfair Trust counsel (and attorney for the plaintiffs in the federal court lawsuit) David Cantelme testified several times appearing to do his best to muddy the issues and provide springboards from which to launch litigation. Arizona House of Representatives' paid GOP political operative John Mills was also doing his best to distract, not as often by direct testimony, but his presence at IRC meetings and his private conversations with people who now are named plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging both maps.

Cantelme and Mills definitely disrespected Justice O'Connor by their actions.

Whether or not any of the litigation succeeds in forcing changes to the district maps or in starting the process over again from scratch is yet to be seen. But I can say, as a close observer of the process as it has unfolded -- now more than two years since it began (when commissioner applications were submitted) -- it seems completely implausible, to me anyway, that either court will disqualify the maps that were used in this year's election. Of course, I'm not looking at it as an attorney.

Now, the five commissioners who bore the burden of drawing the maps, listening to and reading the testimony of patient and impatient Arizona citizens, working with consultants and staff, can finally see the fruits of their (volunteer) labor. For this post, I have not yet obtained feedback from any of the five. But Rick Stertz did promise that he would chat with me and share his thoughts once the final vote tallies are in. No doubt you want to hear from each of them. I will work on that and get back to you, hopefully before mid-December.

Ultimately, the bottom line is that voter registration numbers (and actual election results) as they were used by the 2011 AIRC are fairly reflected in the results of 2012 legislative and Congressional races. While I would have been more pleased with different outcomes for statewide races (US Senate and AZ Corp Comm), those offices were not subject to redistricting. That Republicans won them all is not inconsistent with the outcomes of the non-statewide races.

Make no mistake, these results will not stop the GOP or its Tea Party fanatics from grousing. And they will likely not stop putting effort into subverting the will of the voters of Arizona. But as long as we have an internet that provides egalitarian access, and as long as I draw breath, I will do my best shine the light of accountability on them.

By the way, in the category of -- Be Careful What You Wish For -- wouldn't Cantelme and Hauser be as shocked IF, in the slim chance that a court would order the map drawing process to be redone, what Competitive Districts Coalition co-chairs Ken Clark and Roberta Voss had advocated for -- even MORE competitive districts end up in the maps used for 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020. Wouldn't that be a sweet and gentle touch of poetic justice? Given the current voter registration numbers, it's certainly in the realm of probability.

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