Monday, December 26, 2011

Redistricting -- Gerrymandering? Really? UPDATED 11:30pm MST, 12-26-11

It's fair to say that whenever the redistricting process becomes independent and public, like it has in Arizona, it will be controversial. Reflecting back to the hot summer of 2011, Arizona learned a new definition of controversial. We know this because hindsight is 20/20. To really grasp the intensity of the Arizona redistricting controversy, review this blog's posts over the last year. After all, politics is not for the faint of heart*. Courageous populist activists throughout the nation will learn from our experience.

A most obvious a source of contention, naysayers have -- on everything they do not like about any given map proposal -- cavalierly labeled the lines and the maps as "gerrymandering."
In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected districts. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander; however, that word can also refer to the process.
In comments at the end of this recent Politico story on last week's wrap up, Goldwater Institute economist Byron Schlomach, pitifully attempted to rebut a comment I made, asserts just such a claim.
This is a stupid statement. What Muratore pointed out is CLASSIC district packing - i.e., gerrymandering for a particular party. Gerrymandering is most successful when one party is a huge majority in very few districts while the favored party is a small majority in many districts. What he did not state is that [sic] that Democrat registration is significantly lower than Republican, lying by omission. 
Now, the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes Chapter 1) says there is no new thing under the sun. I believe there are no new concepts "under the sun." Especially when it comes to politics.

But there ARE new houses, new roads, new electronic gadgets, exploration of new frontiers, etc. As Buzz Lightyear would say, "To infinity and beyond!" My point? Controversy over redistricting is certainly nothing new. However, this year the intensity of the conflict reached new levels. With the increased controversy has come hefty doses of propaganda. This is what Schlomach wants people to believe I was doing with the comment to which he replied.
First, Kirkpatrick is NOT a lock to win the Democratic primary. Indeed, Gosar will have an uphill battle either way. As for Quayle and Schweikert, it couldn't have happened to two nicer guys. But really, I think they'll find a way not to have to face each other anyway. The FACT is that Republicans have 4 strong majority districts. That's 44 percent of the 9 districts. Given that they only have 35 percent of the voter registration in the state, I'd say the map is overly generous to THEM. And Lauren Kuby is correct. The way you constructed this story, it IS slanted. Arizona citizens are poised to WIN in this one.
He claims I omitted something. But did I? Arizona's Republican Party has, according to the tentatively final Congressional map approved last week, four districts with strong registration advantage. Four out of nine is 44 percent. But the AZ GOP, according to the latest figures posted by Secretary of State Ken Bennett,  has 35.58 percent of the registered voters in the entire state. Please, tell me what I've left out. Perhaps that Democrats only have two Congressional districts with strong voter registration advantage? Two out of nine is 22 percent. But 30.7 percent of Arizona voters are registered Democrats. Tell me what I've left out. Please.

That leaves three Congressional districts that are arguably up for grabs. Fully one-third of Arizona's representatives in Congress next fall will have to win their seats based on the strength of their ideas. That is, IF you have more than strong candidates that effectively campaign on issues. Competitive districts alone do not guarantee a clean fight. Can we predict whether those campaigns will be clean and on issues?

Drawing district lines according to the mandate of Arizona voters in 2000 -- to establish fair and competitive districts -- does NOT give advantage of any political party. Except from a perverse perspective that argues Republicans are owed advantage in EVERY district except Voting Rights Act districts.

What does genuine gerrymandering look like? Here's something from Pennsylvania. Look at the orange and the deepest purple districts for the most extreme example. Each of those two districts are contiguous ONLY at ONE point. That means that there are separate sections of those districts that touch at ONLY ONE point.

To fully disclose, I'm not sure whether that is a final map, that has been or will be in use. However, this one is apparently the recently proposed final PA Congressional map. Districts 16 and 13 appear to be pretty extreme examples.

Arizonans may also be aware of Phoenix city council district 6. It contains a good bit of east Phoenix and Ahwatukee and looks like a barbell. Nothing in Arizona this cycle (2011) looks anything like those PA or Phoenix city council examples. For the last decade, Congressional District 2 was cited as a classic example of what a gerrymandered district can look like. That was instituted to resolve a dispute between Hopi and Navajo Native American Nations.

Now that a few days have elapsed since the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission approved the tentative final maps for the next ten years, some of the ramifications may start to come into focus.

Blogger AZ Blue Meanie published an initial look at southern Arizona legislative district races today.

The Payson Roundup reported last week on state Sen. Sylvia Allen's (R- 6,000-year old Earth) pep rally with some Gila County Tea Partiers. The new LD6, which includes Allen's home in Snowflake, also includes Flagstaff. Adding Flagstaff's more Democratic voters may spell the beginning of the end of Ms. Allen's tenure as a lawmaker.

The Green Valley News reported that it expects new legislative representation after the next election,

Green Valley, Sahuarita and Nogales will likely have new state legislators next year because their current lawmakers — all Republicans — live outside the newly drawn district approved by the Independent Redistricting Commission last week. 
The next lawmakers are likely to be Democrats in the new Legislative District 2, which runs from 22nd Street in Tucson to the Mexico border in Nogales. The new LD 2 has an estimated Democratic party-registration edge of 42 percent to 25 percent for Republicans and 33 percent for others. 
The new map could go into effect for fall’s election unless it is drawn into a lengthy court battle. If that happens, the current districts would be used until 2014. Green Valley and Sahuarita are currently in LD 30.
The Arizona Republic did some initial analysis on the potential Congressional races, speculating on the options for Phoenix area Congressmen Ben Quayle and David Schweikert, Flagstaff Dentist turned Congressman Paul Gosar, the new Phoenix area competitive CD (which may feature a Democratic primary with two or more strong candidates). described the geographic impact on Pinal County but did not speculate on the political implications. (covering Glendale, Surprise and Sun City) let its readers know that Debbie Lesko (R-ALEC state chair) is sorely disappointed to have been cut out of the legislative district that includes Sun City.

“I’m bummed,” Lesko said. “Until this new map, I thought I was going to have Sun City.”
As Lesko sees it, she has three options: She can stay in her current district, which she said is “totally different;” move into an area included with the Sun City district; or possibly move into the Sun City West and Sun City Grand district, which includes some of her current constituents and would be familiar territory.

In the upcoming spring session, the extent of "reforms" the Republican legislative supermajority dares to propose (for the AIRC) will be a point of contention. Right-wing bloggers in Arizona have already begun tilling the field for repeal of Prop 106. Several GOP motor mouths (including Frank Antenori and Proud Terri) have been highly critical of the AIRC and have not been shy about wanting to eliminate the independent process. Any change, however, would have to be approved by Arizona voters.

Right-wing blogger Shane Wikfors has already signaled that he will advocate for a Prop 106 repeal. Wikfors also posted the ProPublica story calling out California Democratic Congressional representatives. However, a California Democratic Party official called the article "complete bullshit." Wikfors coyly declines to report the Arizona parallel to the claims made by ProPublica. Fair Trust and GOP activists (though very likely not directed by the AZ GOP officially) put on a full court press to influence this year's AIRC. (Described in several previous Arizona Eagletarian posts)

Last evening, on the Huffington Post, bloggers Phil Rounstine and Jerry Roberts incisively dissected the ProPublica story. So, while there probably was behind the scenes jockeying on the part of some elected officials, the premise -- that Democratic members of California's Congressional delegation had exerted undue, unseen influence on the newly enacted California Citizens' Redistricting Commission -- is patently false.

Wikfors also tweets and promotes other articles he finds to try to convince people of the "evils" of independent redistricting.


Expect much more speculation regarding potential Congressional and legislative races over the next couple of months. When the GOP dominated Arizona Legislature returns (January 9th, for its 2012 regular session), expect more grousing over the maps as well as about the independent process.


*A couple of examples of efforts and adventures "not for the faint of heart" include:

Volcano boarding in Nicaragua

Not for the Faint of Heart: My Journey to Manhood in the Santa Clara Vanguard 


From Tony Sissons:

Just a clarification about Phoenix Council District 6: It was drawn that way 20 years ago by consultant National Demographics Corporation, and again that way by my company 10 years ago. Why? First, the area south of South Mountain is too small to be a separate council district (unless the City decides to go to 18 council districts!). So, the Ahwatukee-Foothills area has to be joined to some other part of Phoenix--but where? The two council districts adjoining the Ahwatukee area are both minority majority districts. Adding largely Anglo Ahwatukee to either district would probably dilute their minority proportions in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Nevertheless, we prepared, for public comment, an alternate plan that tied Ahwatukee to a portion of South Phoenix. Phoenix residents detested the plan.

We also proposed a plan that widened the connecting neck. The problem there is that the wider neck took many African-American residents out of the only district with a large African-American proportion--again, a movement that would not pass DOJ scrutiny. So, the barbell configuration has been unavoidable for two decades. Is it still? We are analyzing that right now. District 6 is not a gerrymander because it was not created for the purpose of giving advantage to any political party or candidate. Shape alone does not signal a gerrymander. It is possible to create a political advantage with a perfectly circular compact district. 

Not for the faint of heart: Volcano-boarding in Nicaragua

Read more here:

So, similarly to the 2001 Arizona Congressional Map which drew a bizarre district for the Hopi Nation in NE Arizona, there was justification for the Phoenix City Council District 6 barbell shape.

Not for the faint of heart: Volcano-boarding in Nicaragua

Read more here:

Not for the faint of heart: Volcano-boarding in Nicaragua

Read more here:

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