Comment Period Ticking on Draft Maps for the Next Decade

Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission was created by a voter-initiated amendment to the Arizona Constitution in 2000. We are smack in the weeds on the work of the third Commission. The Commissioners unanimously approved Draft Maps last Thursday triggering a mandatory 30-day public comment period. After that, the Commissioners retreat to their own (public) deliberations until they approve Final Maps that will control our Legislative and Congressional Districts for the next 10 years.

The ballot language for the constitutional amendment approved by Arizona voters in 2000 was:

…An Amendment…relating to ending the practice of gerrymandering and improving voter and candidate participation in elections by creating an independent commission of balanced appointments to oversee the mapping of fair and competitive Congressional and Legislative Districts.

Prop 106

Thanks to Arizona voters 21 years ago, the Arizona Constitution now obligates five commissioners bound to “fair and competitive maps” using six criteria — one of them is competitiveness. The actual constitutional amendment packed a lot of meaning into the ballot’s word “fair,” as you’ll see from this list:

A. Districts shall comply with the United States Constitution and the United States Voting Rights Act.

B. Congressional Districts shall have equal population to the extent practicable, and State Legislative Districts shall have equal population to the extent practicable.

C. Districts shall be geographically compact and contiguous to the extent practicable.

D. District boundaries shall respect communities of interest to the extent practicable.

E. To the extent practicable, district lines shall use visible geographic features, city, town, and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts.

F. To the extent practicable, competitive districts should be favored where to do so would create no significant detriment to other goals.

Arizona Constitution, Article IV, Part 2, Section 1, paragraph 14.

While the Commission has many ways to draw lines that would make a Northern Arizona legislative district competitive while following the other five criteria, these Draft Maps pack Democrats into one district and Republicans into two others.

Elected representatives have no motivation to be accountable to large sections of their constituents if they are in “safe” seats like this. Competition within districts fosters moderation because candidates must appeal to people with widely differing views. The Draft Maps for legislative districts in Northern Arizona will foster extremism and further polarization and we urge the Commission to revise the district lines accordingly.

Democrats are not afraid to compete. We urge the Commission to follow the voters’ directive to create competitive maps. There are many ways to submit public comments. Your comments will have the most impact if you appear in person to testify AND submit your testimony in writing. The first opportunity to speak is this Saturday in a virtual public hearing. There will be an opportunity next Wednesday in Flagstaff. Watch our calendar and the Commission’s calendar for public hearings.

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