Friday, May 20, 2011

Redistricting -- oh what a fuss!

One week ago today, Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission voted to hire two law firms to advise on the mapping process and assist in any related litigation.  And there will be litigation. 

However, we may see the IRC in court far sooner than previously anticipated.  Given the ambiguity of the "communities of interest" criteria and increasing public demand for competitive districts, the maps issued in the fall will certainly be challenged by somebody.

Of course, the process has already been subject to one court challenge. Months ago, Arizona's Republican legislative leaders notably injected themselves into the process -- before it was their turn.  Upset that ASU law prof. Paul Bender, believed to be a staunch Liberal, might have been chosen to chair the Commission, the Senate President and former House Speaker sued, hoping to get Bender disqualified by the Arizona Supreme Court.  It did not work.  Regardless, Bender was not chosen.

Back to the present.  It seems we may not have heard the last of Lisa Hauser's consternation over losing to Ballard Spahr last week. When I asked Ray Bladine about the situation today, he told me that Hauser requested access to records concerning that procurement process.  He wouldn't speculate as to what she might do with what she learns. It's clear to me she's not yet ready to throw in the towel.

I then called John Mills, Republican staffer for the Arizona House of Representatives, to ask what he thought about the Ballard Spahr hiring.  He told me, "I don't want to be rude, but I am just not going to speak to you about this."  

So, before a mapping consultant is even chosen, should we expect Hauser to throw a (legal) wrench or two into the process?  What about the veiled threat that emerged back in February about legislative leadership putting a financial squeeze on the Commission?  Though a total of $3 million has already been appropriated to the IRC, given the likelihood of litigation, how quickly will they burn through the money?

Between the mapping process (including public outreach/hearings and defending the maps in court), the 2001 IRC spent more than $6 million.  Costs for legal services have gone up in the last ten years... but by how much?

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