The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) has been working on the maps updating where Arizona’s congressional districts are drawn to reflect changing demographics, something which takes place once every 10 years. The commission approved draft maps this week, which makes more congressional districts competitive, but it’s tough to predict how those races could go due to demographics changing in the future — zoning rules can easily tip a district. The legislative districts are also being redrawn, and while they make Republican seats safer, they also create two swing seats that could allow the Democrats to take control of the legislature.
Under the congressional plan, four of the nine districts would be considered competitive, with two of them genuine toss-ups. The other districts would be three safe Republican seats and two safe Democrat seats. The two highly competitive districts include the newly labeled CD6, which contains much of Southern Arizona. A significant portion of that district is currently represented by Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, who is retiring. Its Democratic advantage will be just 1.9 percent. The other one is the newly labeled CD1, which includes Scottsdale and much of Phoenix. It is currently represented by Republican David Schweikert and Democrat Greg Stanton. Its Democratic advantage will be just 1.6 percent.
CD8 in the West Valley, which is currently held by Republican Debbie Lesko, will lose some of its Republican advantage, dropping to 4.1 percent. Whereas the new CD2, currently much of Democratic Tom O’Halleran’s district, which includes Native American tribes in the northeastern part of the state, will also see its Democratic advantage drop slightly.
The AIRC is required to follow seven criteria when making its decisions:
- Comply with the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act
- Each district shall be comparable in size
- Each district shall be geographically compact and contiguous as much as practical
- Boundaries shall respect “communities of interest” as much as practical
- Boundaries shall follow geographic boundaries, city lines, etc.
- Political party registration, voter history and location of incumbents shall not be taken into consideration
- “Competitive districts” are favored if they do not significantly harm the other criteria
An insider told The Arizona Sun Times that the AIRC significantly violated the criteria. The congressional maps were gerrymandered to “reach up along the west 101 and grab Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko’s house and pull her out of her safe District 8.” Similarly, “The district covering Tempe and old Mesa reached out and circled around Republican Rep. Andy Biggs’ house and pulled him into a Democratic district.” And “Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton was pulled into Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallegos’ district, which isn’t surprising considering all the infighting between Democratic white liberals and Democratic Hispanics.”
Although members of Congress are not required to live in their congressional districts, being redistricted out significantly impedes them, such as hampering their ability to fundraise and requiring them to forge new swaths of constituent relationships.
Also, the proposed maps violate the rules by overemphasizing competitiveness, the insider said. By increasing the number of competitive districts, they are harming the criterion of forming districts around communities of interest. The new CD1 stretches north of Phoenix into Anthem and New River, which are suburban cowboy areas, east to Fountain Hills, and down into central Phoenix into the progressive enclaves in the Encanto and Willow areas. The only community of interest the commission seems to care about is Hispanics, at the expense of other communities of interest, the insider said.
The Arizona Legislature handled redistricting until 2000, when a voter-approved initiative that was opposed by Republicans gave that responsibility to a new redistricting commission. The members are selected by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments (CACA). Although Gov. Doug Ducey appoints the members of the CACA, the commission still chose two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent to serve on the AIRC. Both the congressional and legislative redistricting draft maps received unanimous approval by the commission members.
The AIRC isn’t listening to Republicans who show up to speak at its meetings, the insider said, because they identify themselves as political, as precinct committee persons, instead of “community concerned citizens” like the Democrats do, emphasizing their interest in keeping their community demographics together.
The public now gets 30 days to look at the maps and make comments. The commissioners will vote on final drafts on December 22. Trey Terry, who is a member of the Agua Fria Union High School District Governing Board, posted a list of the Democrat or Republican percentage advantages for each Arizona congressional district here. He posted a list of the proposed congressional districts and how they correlate to each existing Arizona member of Congress here.
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