Draft Legislative District Map for Northern Arizona a Slap in Voters’ Faces

Comment submitted to IRC by Ann Heitland on behalf of herself as a resident on Coconino County

The Arizona Constitution requires the Independent Redistricting Commission to accommodate the competitiveness goal while taking into account whether greater competitiveness would cause significant detriment to the other goals. There is no reasonable basis to believe that the northern districts created in the Legislative Draft Map have been created using this constitutional standard. Indeed, the northern districts seem to have been gerrymandered out of compliance with several of the constitutional criteria, specifically, competitiveness, compactness, and communities of interest.

Official Legislative Draft Map of the Independent Redistricting Commission

For background on the Arizona Constitution and the work of the Independent Redistricting Commission, read “Comment Period Ticking on Draft Maps for the Next Decade.”

First, all the northern districts (D30, D5, D7, D6) are outside the Commission’s own acceptable range of competitiveness by very wide margins. Yet, alternative maps have been submitted which show this is not necessary. The maps submitted by the Coconino County Board of Supervisors are one example. (LDF050 and LDF051). Another is LD0023 (LDF008). These show that at least one competitive district is possible in northern Arizona. There is no rational reason for the Commission to brush by the constitutional directive to favor competitiveness; it can be achieved in the north without detriment to the other goals.

Second, D7 in the Draft Map is not compact to the extent practicable. The Coconino County Supervisors’ alternative to D7 performs much better under all the Commission’s compactness measurements. LD0023 performs well compared with the Draft Map as well. In contrast, D7 in the Draft Map is like a distorted starfish stretching across five counties.

Third, the community of interest evidence is overwhelmingly against the Draft Map of D7. Economic, public safety, transportation, cultural, and partisan relationships tie Sedona and the Verde Valley with Flagstaff and its unincorporated communities and separate them from the rest of Yavapai County. Sorting through the mass of testimony on all sides is hard but one finds that those opposing this definition of community of interest disagree among themselves about an alternative community of interest and oppose the north-south definition based largely on apparent partisan preference without supporting facts grounded in the economy, lifestyles, geography, and government relationships. A minority of Verde Valley and Flagstaff residents have commented that the Verde Valley should be with the White Mountain region in Navajo and Apache Counties but not with Flagstaff, and their reasons seem to be partisan and are non-specific. Those same folks don’t want to be with Pinal. Meanwhile, some self-described “White Mountain Conservatives” have asked to be with Verde Valley communities AND with Flagstaff. Other Verde Valley residents have commented that they should be with western Yavapai County, keeping Yavapai County whole (for invalid reasons addressed below). Many Verde Valley residents have commented they want to be with Flagstaff. The city or town councils of Clarkdale, Flagstaff, and Sedona have all voted unanimously to support the maps of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors and the Mayor of Jerome has endorsed those maps. Deference should be given to such broad, unanimous support by leaders elected by their communities as well as to the rationality of facts offered for the community of interest they define in their testimony and submissions.

While two Yavapai County supervisors, speaking on their own behalf, argued for the whole county concept, the Yavapai County government has itself recognized that the two sides of Mingus Mountain have disparate needs that cannot be served by a single community college location or a single jail or single sheriff’s office. There are separate ones of each on opposite sides of Mingus Mountain. So, too, should the two sides of the mountain be in separate legislative districts because that split is necessary to accommodate the other constitutional criteria while Section 14(E) is honored by using the mountain divide.

Those opposing the Coconino County Supervisors’ maps place great weight on keeping Yavapai County whole, as the Draft Map does. While using county boundaries where practicable is one of several factors – along with visible geographic features, city and town boundaries, and undivided census tracts — mentioned in criteria E of Section 14, the Yavapai county boundary should be no more sacrosanct than the boundaries of other counties that have been split in the Draft Map for practical purposes. And, pursuant to the constitutional language of Section 14(E), the Yavapai County boundary line deserves no more weight than the huge geographic divide created by Mingus Mountain, which slices the Verde Valley on the eastern edge from the remainder of the county.

The Arizona Constitution does not give any county sovereignty to have its very own legislators. Overall, the Draft Map acknowledges this principle. Yavapai uniquely has its own legislative district in the Draft Map. It is one of only four counties that is not split in the Draft Map and the other two – Cochise, Greenlee, and LaPaz – are combined with other counties rather than standing alone. Yavapai is a very large county compared to Santa Cruz, Graham, Gila, and Pinal, all of which are split in the Draft Maps. And, larger or similar-sized counties are also split, like Coconino, Navajo, Apache, Yuma, Pima and, of course, Maricopa. The Commission should apply Section 14(E) with Mingus Mountain rather than a boundary line; this is more rational in the context of the other constitutional criteria, more practical in that it divides the county in the same way Yavapai County government has treated the two regions separately by providing separate services on each side of the mountain, and honors the weight of community of interest testimony.

Finally, during the Draft Map deliberations, Chair Neuberg expressed the desire to give voice to the “right of center” population in the Tucson area. Surely, the “left of center” population in Northern Arizona deserves similar recognition. All we are asking for is a competitive district without detriment to the other five constitutional criteria. There are clear ways to make a competitive district while meeting all the other constitutional criteria. Failing to do so has no rational basis and would be unconstitutional.

Posted in Latest News.