Republicans are ready to have majority control in Arizona’s Legislature and dominate Arizona’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade, as newly approved ballot papers can affect power.
After more than 100 public meetings and countless hours of debate among them in the two-part redistribution commission, critics question whether the final cards are fair.
Some suggest that gerrymandering, the drawing of districts to unfairly favor one political party, crept into the process.
The Arizona Democratic Party claims the redistribution commission, and specifically, the independent chairman GOP delivered “the gift of the most unbalanced congressional card Arizona has seen in a generation.”
The next decade could provide a legislature with even more conservative legislators who are likely to propose a series of new laws, whether anti-immigrant, further restricting access to abortion or banning subjects in public schools. Democrats claim that Arizona’s GOP has been a “test base” for several alt-right politicians who support Donald Trump and his ilk.
The Princeton Gerrymandering project found that both cards favored Republicans to varying degrees, yielding congressional and legislative cards C and B, respectively. , that the final cards were more party political.
The new cards caught the attention of former US Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under President Barack Obama. Holder predicted that the Arizona cards will be challenged in court.
“The Commission has violated a legacy of justice and benefited Republicans at every turn – at the expense of the Arizona people,” Holder said on Twitter. “The president has a duty to ensure a fair trial and not side with the Republicans or push a party-political agenda. Anything less than cards that are fair will be challenged.”
Arizona’s current representatives in the U.S. House are more blue – Democrats have a slim majority with five seats compared to four that Republicans hold. But the next election could give Republicans six seats left
Democrats with three. Two districts are very competitive with a turnout of less than 3 percent.
The incumbent Congressman, Democrat Tom O’Halleran, and Republican David Schweikert may be ousted next year, while incumbent Democrat-American Representative Ann Kirkpatrick retires.
Map makers started from scratch so elected officials can line up in different districts but will generally represent similar geographic areas.
Every 10 years, the state’s U.S. congressional and state-wide legislative districts are drawn to adapt to the latest U.S. census ordered by voters. Last year, the redistribution commission had to figure out how to redistribute seats to represent 7.1 million Arizonans.
Consultants carved new districts intended to have roughly the same population, remain compact in size, and represent communities of interest.
More than 4.2 million voters registered for the last presidential election in November 2020, divided into four major groups. There were 1.3 million Democrats, 1.5 million Republicans, 1.3 million Independents and 38,385 Libertarians in Arizona.
“I think you could consider us a purple state. But we’re still centrist, and Republicans have the largest registration numbers in the state. But we’re trending purple, but not even solid purple,” said Chad Campbell, Democratic strategist at Phoenix . “This process is inherently difficult, there is no easy way to do it.”
To ensure that voters are represented by roughly equal populous districts, voters from cities like Phoenix and Tucson mix with rural and suburban voters despite often conflicting political views.
In 2011, each congressional district had 710,244 people each. Now each district has about 794,611 inhabitants each, based on the 2020 US Census.
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission – which oversees the process – has two Democrats, two Republicans and is headed by a president registered as an independent.
Critics blame President Erika Neuberg, who was previously registered as a Republican, for favoring changes to the cards pushed by Republicans on the committee, for voting with conservatives on district cards of their choice and giving public cards submitted by conservative groups greater weight.
During a mid-December meeting, Republican David Mehl pushed back on cards submitted by the Arizona Latino Coalition for Fair Redistricting, claiming they gave Democrats an unfair party-political advantage.
But progressives also complained about justice.
“One of the concerns we had about this was that Governor (Doug) Ducey was stacking the committee (with Republicans),” said Tomas Robles Jr., executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, an organization for social justice. active in electoral politics for progressive purposes.
In contrast, Commissioners considered proposals submitted under the name of a group of companies without attaching a party note.
The Southern Arizona Leadership Council card was created by the second vice president of the Pima County Republican Party.
“Therein lies the hypocrisy of the members of that committee … we are still losing voters (in these Latino Coalition cards). It is very worrying that they may call our cards party political, but the other cards are not,” Robles said. “Our goal has always been to mitigate any potential losses because we feel the commission is skewing more to the right than we are comfortable seeing.”
Rebecca Rios and Reginald Bolding Jr., the Arizona Senate and the Democratic leaders in Congress, reiterated these concerns, noting that Latinos in particular were under-represented in some polling stations. But so crowded in Legislative District 24, which includes some of Glendale and Phoenix’s majority Latino Maryvale neighborhood.
“Throughout the mapping process, the president has repeatedly sided with Republican commissioners while cards were discussed,” according to a joint letter from Democrats.
The Independent President, while refusing favoritism, voted with the Republicans every time except twice.
Maps even ruffled the feathers of the Republican Party in Arizona as representatives urged districts to become more competitive at the ballot box. Republicans complained that some communities of interest were divided for party political reasons. For example, the Scottsdale McCormick Ranch area was split between Legislative District 4 and District 8 in the draft and the final map, instead of just District 4 only.
Meanwhile, in draft maps, Legislative Districts 2 in Deer Valley and 4 in Scottsdale were overcrowded, while District 28 in Sun City West and several rural areas north of Phoenix were underpopulated. Deer Valley ended up with 246,674 residents, while the Scottsdale district had roughly 244,298 voters and the Sun City area had 228,803 voters on the final maps.
“Population inequality among districts unfairly strengthens the influence of voters in subpopulated districts, while weakening the influence of voters in overcrowded districts,” Arizona Republican Senate President Karen Fann and state President Rusty Bowers said in a joint letter.
A community organization accused the commission of ignoring input from marginalized communities in Arizona when creating the new districts.
“Clearly, the commission failed to incorporate input that Arizona communities shared during all parts of the process,” Victoria Grijalva Ochoa, redistricting program manager for One Arizona, said after the vote. “Some stakeholders had the opportunity to directly influence district lines without challenge, while others were not given the same opportunity at a distance. We can not help but feel as if (the commission) only gave oral luck to our communities throughout this process.”
Ochoa said before the vote that the Latino population is growing in Arizona.
“That should reflect the political power,” she said. “We should be able to have fair representation.”
It is unfair and not representative when voters are ‘packed’ in a district when a large proportion of voters are usually separated from minorities. Ochoa said an example of a densely populated district is Legislative District 24 in the borough of Glendale and Maryvale, where 51 percent of registered voters are Hispanic. Or the potential dilution of Latinos as voters in Congressional District 3, South Phoenix Laveen, Maryvale and downtown Phoenix, where it was recommended that the majority of white communities in Peoria be included but stay in District 8 on the final maps.
In the end, two out of nine congressional districts are highly competitive, while the remaining seven districts voted solidly for either Republicans or Democrats. Latin Americans have a majority of votes in two out of nine congressional districts – District 3 in Phoenix and District 7 along the US-Mexico border with Yuma – and historically, both areas have overwhelmingly voted for the Democrats.
The organizers say it was a huge boost even to get tribal members to participate in the process. Rural areas live far from meeting places, and many do not have access to the Internet to submit a public comment during the redistribution meetings. In the end, the commission simply paid “lip service” to indigenous communities, activists complained.
“It’s no secret that we have people working against black and brown people and indigenous communities,” said Jaynie Parrish, executive director of the Navajo County Democrats. “Tribe has worked so hard to get fair representation, even though we are a smaller population, but we can not go back.”
Since it only happens once a year, there is a loophole in the information about what it is exactly, she said.
Parrish said she was most concerned about Congressional District 2 on the new maps, which cover a large area of rural Arizona from south of Phoenix to Prescott and Flagstaff, as an example where native voters have been washed out.
About 21 percent of the district’s voters were Native Americans, but the district elected Republicans in the last nine elections.
Democrat O’Halleran represents what is now District 1 and is running for re-election under District 2 next year.
“That’s where you see the dilution,” Parrish said. “We do not want to divide the original voting power.”
Lawsuits are likely to challenge these cards, say both insiders and outsiders.
“The process is not as important as results. A commission is just a process, fair cards are a result,” said Marc E. Elias, a lawyer at Elias Law Group and founder of the Democracy Docket, which focuses on electoral law. “The Arizona redistribution process did not succeed if its goal was to introduce fair maps. I expect you will see lawsuits against these Arizona maps in the coming days and weeks.”