Arizona's Redistricting News
(October 7, 2001-December 17, 2001)

 

 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." December 17, 2001
 Arizona Republic: "Districting Maps Slow in Coming, Face Lawsuit." December 14, 2001
 San Francisco Chronicle: "Arizona Congressional Lines Track Navajo and Hopi Differences." November 6, 2001
 Arizona Republic: "Political Maps Get Panel's OK." November 5, 2001
 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." October 22, 2001
 Arizona Republic: "Minorities doubt redistricting success." October 16, 2001
 Arizona Republic: "Redistrict Process Was Still Political." October 15, 2001
 Arizona Daily Star: "Tucson Loses Clout; Redistricting Completed." October 15, 2001
 Arizona Daily Star: "Final map OK'd for 8 seats in Congress." October 13, 2001
 Arizona Republic: "Redistricting Map Finished; New boundaries don't please all." October 13, 2001
 Arizona Republic: "Unlikely Alliance Seeks to Kill Dem Plan to Create District." October 10, 2001
 Arizona Republic: "Redistricting in Final Round; Parties, cities still duking it out." October 7, 2001

More Recent Arizona Redistricting News

Arizona Redistricting News from December 30, 2000-September 30, 2001

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
December 17, 2001

Arizona Delay

New maps of the state's eight House districts still haven't been sent to the Department of Justice for pre-approval to ensure that they meet minority voting rights standards. That is prompting concern that the delay could affect the 2002 elections, according to the Arizona Republic.

The maps, adopted by Arizona's new, nonpartisan commission in early November, also may be facing a legal minefield. A coalition of prominent Hispanics plans to sue in state court, arguing that the 30-piece legislative map should be more politically competitive while protecting minority-dominated districts. There are also rumblings that the Navajo Nation is pushing for a greater American Indian influence in northern Arizona.

Arizona Republic
Districting Maps Slow in Coming, Face Lawsuit
By Chip Scutari
December 14, 2001

Arizona's maps of new legislative and congressional districts still haven't been sent to the Department of Justice, prompting concern the delay could affect the 2002 elections.

The maps, adopted in early November, also may be facing a legal minefield.

A coalition of prominent Hispanics is planning to sue in state court, saying the 30-piece legislative map should be more politically competitive while protecting minority-dominated districts. There are also rumblings that the Navajo Nation is pushing for a greater Native American influence in northern Arizona. Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said the Minority Coalition for Fair Districts, a group that monitored redistricting, could file their suit before January.

The number of legislative districts consisting mostly of minorities rose from seven to nine in the new maps.

"We're pleased they have nine minority-majority districts, but we feel the maps can be more competitive," Wilcox said. "That would give everyone a fighting chance."

Wilcox said the coalition has political experts and attorneys scrutinizing the plan before filing the suit.

Jim Pederson, who spent $600,000 of his own money on the independent redistricting initiative, is upset the maps still haven't been mailed out.

"I hope the commission can get their running shoes on and get those maps done," said Pederson, head of the Arizona Democratic Party. "I don't think it's that difficult."

The five-member panel of citizen mapmakers approved congressional and legislative maps in October, and they were officially adopted in early November.

Lisa Hauser, the Republican attorney on the Independent Redistricting Commission, said an extensive process needs to be completed before the maps can be shipped to Washington, D.C. Hauser said boxes of information include pages of public testimony and dozens of alternatives that were considered.

"You can't just throw things in a box and mail it," Hauser said. "We're going as fast as we can. "It's much more complicated than just sending the maps. We're comfortable with the timeline."

The Justice Department has 60 days to approve the maps.

Mike Hellon, an Arizona member of the Republican National Committee, said the Democrats should stop bickering. "This was their creation in the first place, and now they are whining," Hellon said. "It's absolutely ridiculous."

The Democrats have been boiling over redistricting since October. Their push for more competitive districts was thwarted by the commission, which wouldn't take voters from heavily Hispanic and Democratic districts to sprinkle into Republican-dominated districts.

Sen. Pete Rios, D-Hayden, said the maps keep Democrats as second-class citizens.

"It is OK to have more minority members here, but if we don't have enough Democrats, what good does it do?" Rios said.

Redistricting is done every 10 years on the basis of the latest population and demographic information from the U.S. census.

San Francisco Chronicle
Arizona Congressional Lines Track Navajo and Hopi Differences
November 6, 2001

A new way of drawing Arizona's political boundaries ran up against a generations-old reality this year: the Navajo and Hopi tribes don't get along. With each tribe holding different views of what it would take to preserve their voting rights, a state commission was forced to decide that each reservation should be in a separate congressional district -- even though the 8,000 Hopis' reservation is entirely surrounded by the Arizona portion of the much larger Navajo Reservation.

Arizona Republic
Political Maps Get Panel's OK
November 5, 2001

The state's Independent Redistricting Commission has given final approval to new congressional and legislative maps.

That clears the way for the maps to be submitted this month to the U.S. Justice Department for review.

The commission decided in early October where to draw the lines for eight congressional districts and 30 legislative districts

Adjustments were made to balance populations more closely, straighten lines within neighborhoods and prevent small populations from being trapped between congressional and legislative lines.

The final versions would take effect in 2002 elections.

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
October 22, 2001

Owens, Part III

Steve Owens (D), who nearly ousted Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) in 1996 and tried again in 1998, said he's "seriously considering" a third House bid, this time for one of two new open seats unveiled in Arizona last week.

A nonpartisan redistricting commission adopted a map for the state's eight House seats that would protect all six incumbents and create two heavily minority districts as well as a rural district that's larger than Pennsylvania.

Owens is considering a run in the new 1st, the sprawling district that includes several rural counties that he carried against Hayworth. Democrats have an 8-point edge in the seat. "If I'd had a district like this [in 1996 and 1998], I would have won those elections," he said. "Having run twice there and done well twice there, we're taking a very serious look at making another race there."

Hayworth intends to run in the new 5th, a relatively compact district east of Phoenix. Republicans have an 18-point edge in the district, which is 77 percent white.

The House map features four districts that lean Republican, two Democratic strongholds and two swing districts. Although Democrats voiced disappointment with the map, it could nonetheless mark a net gain of two House seats for them.

Rep. Ed Pastor, the state's only sitting House Democrat, will run in the new 4th, a majority-Hispanic district in suburban Phoenix. His current 2nd district, which covers southwest Arizona, will include most of the new 7th, an open seat that leans Democratic. A new Democratic stronghold, the 4th, was carved into the southern Phoenix suburbs. The district is 58 percent Hispanic and has nearly a 2-1 Democratic tilt.

The Arizona Republic

Minorities doubt redistricting success

By Chip Scutari
October 16, 2001

 

Gains made by minorities in the state's redistricting process probably won't lead to legislation that improves lives in minority communities, Hispanic Democrats said Monday.

 

They acknowledged that minorities gained some political clout because of their fast-growing population. Minorities will dominate nine of 30 legislative districts and two of eight congressional districts as a result of new legislative boundaries approved Sunday.

 

But state Sen. Pete Rios, D-Hayden, and others asserted that by grouping minorities into certain pockets of the state, the new legislative districts will limit Democrats' chances of loosening Republicans' grip on public policy in the state. Rios said key minority issues, such as adult education and health care for the uninsured, probably will get passed over by a GOP-controlled Legislature.

 

"In the real world, having nine minority districts doesn't mean a hill of beans," said Rios, a Capitol veteran of 18 years. "We will control no one's agenda. White Democrats are more likely to be sensitive to the needs of the minority community than most Republican office holders. The Republicans are using the Voting Rights Act to ensure themselves a majority for the next 10 years."

 

The Voting Rights Act of 1964 was the legal foundation for the new approach to redistricting.

 

Nathan Sproul, the executive director of the state GOP, said the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission acted appropriately in drawing up the new maps. The panel was following state and federal laws, he observed. Republicans hold about a 6 percent edge in voter registration in Arizona.

"The commission explored every option," Sproul said. "They followed the law."

 

The redistricting commission carved out the legislative and congressional maps over the weekend. It was the first time the mapmaking was done by a citizen-driven panel instead of by lawmakers in the Legislature. The new open process and statewide public hearings were applauded, but the final results left some with a bad taste in their mouths.

 

Jim Pederson, the financial muscle behind the redistricting initiative, said he was "tremendously disappointed." Pederson, chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, pumped in more than $600,000 of his own money into Proposition 106. But he didn't get much return on his investment.

 

"If the Republicans can pack most of the Democrats into just a few legislative areas and a couple congressional districts, it assures them an affirmative majority," Pederson told The Arizona Republic. "But packing people into certain districts is wrong. No rational person can look at these maps and say they are competitive."

 

The recently completed redistricting will give Republicans a voter registration edge in 18 of 30 legislative districts. There is only one competitive congressional district and only four of the 30 legislative districts are considered "swing" districts where either political party could win. That's fewer swing districts than existed when the Legislature drew up the maps.

 

Some GOP incumbents won't be happy with the new legislative map. There are six House Republicans - Reps. Deb Gullett, James Kraft, Steve Tully, Barbara Leff, Steve May and Jeff Hatch-Miller - and two GOP state senators - Tom Smith and Sue Gerard - in a north Phoenix/Paradise Valley legislative district that was created by the commission. Republican state Sens. Scott Bundgaard and Ed Cirillo will be in the same West Valley area.

 

Jim Hartdegen, a lobbyist for Casa Grande, sat through more than 300 hours of redistricting meetings. He praised the commission's diligence but said the citizen-driven process wasn't a lot better than the old-fashioned way of carving up political turf.

 

"I guess it's a little better for the general public, at least in perception," Hartdegen said. "But when the smoke clears, it might look the same as the old way. There was plenty of politics going on. It was just done in a different way."

Arizona Republic
Redistrict Process Was Still Political; Dems may try legal challenge
By Robbie Sherwood and Chip Scutari
October 15, 2001

Minorities gained political muscle, Tucson and Flagstaff lost clout and Democratic Party leaders felt snookered by a new open process for drawing political maps that they helped create as the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission finished its historic mission Sunday.

Arizona's new political maps, drawn for the first time in a public setting rather than in the Capitol basement, are on their way to the Justice Department, which has 60 days to approve them.

Of the 30 new legislative districts, 16 are heavily Republican, 10 are considered safe for Democrats and four are close enough in voter registration to be considered competitive. Arizona Democratic Party political director Paul Hegarty said there were five swing districts before Proposition 106 passed.

The work of the five-member panel, which has put in countless hours since June, will be subjected to scrutiny and possibly some lawsuits from groups that didn't get what they wanted from the map.

"This is not a perfect map, but we have made every effort to accommodate the variety of interests throughout this state," said Commissioner Joshua Hall, a Democrat from St. Johns. "Minorities are as well represented as they have ever been through any redistricting process."

Democratic leaders, including state party Chairman Jim Pederson, who spent $600,000 of his own money to help pass the initiative that took redistricting away from incumbents, were disgusted by the outcome and are considering a lawsuit. Their push for more competitive districts was thwarted by the commission, which wouldn't take voters from heavily Hispanic and Democratic districts to sprinkle into Republican-dominated districts.

"This is a map that is more protective than what was created in the Capitol basement," Hegarty said. "Arizona lost big today. We have fewer competitive districts than before Prop. 106 was passed."

Republican leaders were delighted, a surprising irony, considering they fought against independent redistricting. Thanks to the maps, they have retained overall dominance of the state in both congressional and legislative maps despite only a 5 percent edge in voter registration.

"I compliment the commission for giving up nearly a year of their lives to guarantee that all Arizonans are fairly represented," said Nathan Sproul, state GOP executive director.

The commission approved an eight-district congressional map Saturday. Five of the eight seats are GOP-controlled. Highlights of the legislative map include:

The number of minority-majority legislative districts rose from seven to nine, reflecting the population growth of minorities, particularly Hispanics.

"Our priority was to protect minority voting rights, and we think they did an adequate job of that," said Aaron Kaizer, Minority Coalition for Fair Redistricting attorney.

Flagstaff, the key city in its legislative district, has now been swallowed by a district dominated by the sprawling Navajo Indian Reservation. Commissioners said that they were not happy about turning Flagstaff's political future over to the Navajos, but that their alternatives were more destructive to communities throughout Arizona.

"It's going to be very difficult for the people of Flagstaff to elect anybody from our area," Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson said. "Flagstaff should be its own political force."

The number of legislative seats centered in and around Tucson shrank from six to five; faster-growing Maricopa County grew from 17 to 18.

Glendale voters will be scattered into five districts, up from three.

Redistricting is done every 10 years on the basis of the latest population and demographic information from the U.S. Census. In the past, the mapping has been done by the party in power in the Legislature.

Voters changed the process with the passage of Proposition 106. But the commission and observers quickly realized that it is impossible to remove politics from an inherently political process.

In the marathon map-drawing sessions, the commission listened to veiled threats of lawsuits from nearly every side of the political spectrum if competing interests, such as minority voting rights and political competitiveness, weren't given priority.

Reach the reporter at robbie.sherwood@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8146.

 

Arizona Daily Star
Tucson Loses Clout; Redistricting Completed
By Rhonda Bodfield Sander
October 15, 2001

Republicans applauded and Democratic leaders left the room pledging to consult attorneys after a state panel Sunday approved 30 brand-new legislative districts in Arizona.

As expected, Tucson will lose some clout in the state Legislature, going from six districts to five because faster-growing Maricopa County gained another district, bringing its total to 18.

Minorities fared better. In the state's current legislative map, there are seven districts in which a majority of the population is ethnic minorities. Under the new map, there are nine such districts.

After 10 months of being buttonholed in hallways and over lunch by strategists from both political parties, elected officials, neighborhood representatives and minority coalitions, members of the five-person panel of the Independent Redistricting Commission said they were proud of the final product.

While they all said they would have liked more competitive races, they noted that the other constraints they were working under - notably, getting the maps approved by the U.S. Justice Department for compliance with voting rights protections - worked against competition.

That answer didn't appease Democrats, who will have a difficult time capturing a majority in either the House or Senate under the new boundaries, at least in the foreseeable future.

By their analysis, there are 10 bulletproof Democratic districts with four swing districts. Even if Democrats win all 14 districts, the party will still be two seats shy of controlling the Legislature.

Republican operatives said they thought the boundaries indicated 17 GOP districts and 13 Democratic ones.

Statewide, Republicans have a 5 percent lead in registered voters over Democrats.

Paul Hegarty, political director for the state Democratic Party, said the commission didn't fulfill the wishes of the voters who approved Proposition 106 last November to take map-drawing responsibility away from state lawmakers and give it to regular citizens.

Hegarty said voters thought the move to become the fifth state to make the boundary-drawing process more independent would lead to more competitive races.

"It's a step backward," Hegarty declared. "This map is more protective of the Republican Party than were maps designed in the basement of the state Capitol 10 years ago."

The commissioners, he said, used voting rights and keeping similar communities together "as a cover" to avoid increasing competition. He said the party is consulting attorneys to see if there is any legal relief.

GOP Executive Director Nathan Sproul disagreed.

"The commission exhausted every possible option to improve competition without hurting other goals," Sproul said, adding that he thought the boundaries were fair.

As the meeting wrapped up, Republicans and minority coalition representatives in the audience broke into applause. Even disgruntled Democrats acknowledged the hard work the five commissioners undertook - holding countless meetings for almost a year, including two tours of the state for public meetings, without pay.

With two Republicans, two Democrats and an Independent on the panel, public partisan rifts didn't show until this week.

Sunday, for example, Democratic commissioner Andi Minkoff of Phoenix unsuccessfully tried a last-ditch effort to make Tucson's Northwest side district more competitive by taking Democratic voters from across the Rillito River. The move would have given Demo-crats some hope of winning greater clout at the Capitol.

For voters familiar with Tucson politics, what is now District 14 was the casualty of the new boundaries.

The five new districts include:

A Northwest Side district, which takes in the upper part of the Catalina Foothills, Oro Valley, Catalina and eastern Marana;

A South Side district, which takes in Armory Park and the University of Arizona;

A West Side district, which includes the area near the Tucson Mountains;

 A Central core district, which runs down the middle of town;

And a far East Side district, which takes in the lower foothills, Green Valley and Sierra Vista.

None is considered competitive. The closest race in the future likely will be in the Northwest Side district, in which Republicans hold a 9 percent competitive edge. Democrats have a 37 percent edge in the South Side district.

"When this process is done, there will be political winners and losers," said Commission chairman Steve Lynn. "The distinction I would make is that when the Legislature does this work, those winners and losers are intentional, and when we do it, they're just a function of the constraints we were operating under."

LEGISLATIVE WINNERS AND LOSERS
Winners:
Phoenix area: Eighteen of the Legislature's 30 districts.
Minorities: Hold a majority of the population of registered voters in almost one-third of the legislative districts.
Republicans: Hold a majority of registered voters in 19 of the 30 legislative districts.
Losers:
Tucson area: Has five of the state's legislative districts, down from six.

CONGRESSIONAL WINNERS AND LOSERS
Winners:
Tucson: Controls two congressional seats.
Republicans: Hold four districts. Democrats hold two.
Incumbents: None of the current congressmen will run against a colleague.
Rep. Ed Pastor: Drawn out of the Tucson district as requested.
Minorities: Two majority-minority districts.
Losers:
Democrats: Two safe seats.
Rep. Bob Stump: His Phoenix-area hometown of Tolleson is in the new Tucson district.

Contact Bodfield Sander at (602)271-0623 or rhondab@azstarnet.com.

Arizona Daily Star
Final map OK'd for 8 seats in Congress
By Rhonda Bodfield Sander
October 13, 2001

A state panel charged with cutting Arizona into eight Congressional districts approved new political boundaries Friday night, creating two majority-minority districts, one in Tucson and one in Phoenix.

Currently, there is only one majority-minority district.

In the boundaries approved by the Independent Redistricting Commission on a 4-1 vote, U.S, Rep. Ed Pastor, a Democrat, will no longer represent Tucson.

His district was moved exclusively to the Phoenix area.

Tucson instead will be split between Congressman Jim Kolbe's southeastern district, which includes the northwestern and eastern parts of Tucson, as well as Green Valley and Sierra Vista, and a new congressional district. The new district, which is 54 percent minority, includes southern and western parts of Tucson, as well as Nogales and Yuma.

The new Tucson district also extends into Maricopa County, including 50,000 of the county's residents.

The commission will try to finish drawing 30 new Legislative districts today in Phoenix before sending the boundaries to the U.S. Justice Department to check compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act.

The boundaries approved Friday night left Republicans satisfied and Democrats disappointed.

The final tally: four solid GOP districts, two solid Democratic districts, and two districts that appear competitive on paper.

But Democrats said they feared the two competitive districts will go Republican, in part because Kolbe's Tucson district is Republican-leaning and because the other competitive district to the north includes rapidly growing conservative areas in Yavapai County.

"It's disappointing. The commission has done a great job traveling the state, looking for input, but they've come up with a map that doesn't provide us with a lot of progress" said Paul Hegarty, political director for the state Democratic Party.

Nathan Sproul, executive director of the state Republican Party, said it could have been worse. "We have a fighting shot with one of the new districts, which is what we wanted all along."

Commission member Andi Minkoff voted against the plan, saying the panel should have made at least one of the Phoenix-area districts competitive. The Republican-Democratic split of registered voters in the Phoenix districts varied between 17 and 29 percent.

"I feel very uncomfortable voting against this, but I said my most important vote was to create choices in Arizona so people felt their vote counted for something," Minkoff said.

To make a more competitive district in Phoenix, however, the commission would have had to take Democrats, who were largely Hispanic, from Pastor's district.

Pastor supporters hinted that they would sue if the Hispanic population in his district dipped below 50 percent. Steve Gallardo, a spokesman for the Minority Coalition for Fair Redistricting, said "at first blush" he liked the boundaries. Keeping the Hispanic population about 50 percent gives Hispanics a better chance of voting one of their own into office.

Contact Rhonda Bodfield Sander at (602) 542-5813 or rhondab@azstarnet.com.

 

Arizona Republic
Redistricting Map Finished; New boundaries don't please all
By Chip Scutari
October 13, 2001

After a tense week of partisan lobbying, Arizona's citizen mapmakers carved out a congressional map Friday that keeps all six incumbents safe, creates two minority districts and a new rural district that's larger than Pennsylvania.

The eight-seat map features five districts that lean Republican, two solid Democrat districts and the rural area, which may be the only competitive political race in 2002. The Independent Redistricting Commission, which was created by voters last year, passed the map on a 4-1 vote.

Democrats, who pushed for the citizen-driven redistricting plan known as Proposition 106, were depressed and deflated Friday night.

"It's really disappointing," said Jim Pederson, chairman of the Democratic Party, which pumped more than $600,000 into Proposition 106. "All the incumbents are really safe. The state has not been served well."

Democrats lobbied hard for a central city district that would have taken in Tempe and parts of Scottsdale, Phoenix and Glendale. On Thursday, Paul Eckstein, a Democratic attorney, pitched the idea for 90 minutes. Commissioners said the plan didn't work because it violated the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which protects minority voting rights.

Republicans currently hold an 11-seat advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives. And based on the map, it looks like Democrats can at best pick up two seats in Arizona. The new congressional map grants minority and rural voters newfound political strength while dividing the intertwined but feuding Hopi and Navajo tribes.

Minorities praised the new map. In addition to the minority-dominated district in southwest Phoenix, the commission drew up another minority-influenced political boundary in the southwestern part of the state. Both districts hold a 20-point edge for Democrats.

"We like the numbers," said Steve Gallardo, a spokesman for the Minority Coalition of Fair Districts. "It looks like we got what we wanted."

Leaders in the state GOP were trying to hide wide grins of appreciation after the map passed. Currently, Republicans hold a 5-1 advantage in Arizona's congressional delegation.

"From a Republican perspective, we wanted to keep five seats and to have a fighting chance in one of the two new districts," said Nathan Sproul, executive director of the state Republican Party. "And we accomplished that. This is a good map for Arizona."

Not so, says Redistricting Commission member Andi Minkoff of Phoenix, who cast the lone dissenting vote. She ripped the map's lack of competitiveness, especially in her hometown.

"As I see it, we basically have one competitive district," Minkoff said as she explained her vote. "We were obligated to create one more competitive district. I think we let people down who voted for this proposition."

Redistricting is done every 10 years on the basis of the latest population and demographic information from the U.S. census. In past decades, the mapping has been done by the party in power in the Legislature, evoking cries of unfairness and gerrymandering from interests shut out of the process.

The voter-approved Proposition 106 was supposed to strip partisan politics from the process. It didn't.

Maricopa County will dominate five of the eight districts. Tucson and Pima County will control the two southern Arizona districts.

Putting competition aside, the map creates some odd-looking political turf. The new northern rural district takes in eight counties, stretching from Yavapai County to Pinal County, and wraps around about half of Arizona. The massive district gives Democrats an 8-point edge in voter registration, but they fear that gap could be closed in a few years because the demographics favor Republican voters. Another district in west Phoenix shoots up from Glendale to the Arizona-Utah border.

The five-member panel will try to finish drawing up Arizona's 30-piece legislative map today.

Steve Lynn, chairman of the commission, said the maps reflect the changing whims of Arizona politics.

The congressional map now heads to the U.S. Department of Justice for final approval.

"Compromise is the essence of this type of work," Lynn told the audience. "Compromise isn't necessarily a bad thing. Compromise is an important part of what we've done here."

Arizona Republic
Unlikely Alliance Seeks to Kill Dem Plan to Create District
By Chip Scutari
October 10, 2001

Republicans and Hispanics, including Arizona's lone Hispanic congressman, are trying to derail a Democratic proposal to carve out a congressional district that would wind through Maricopa County, adding a controversial wrinkle to an otherwise incumbent-proof map.

As the five-person Independent Redistricting Commission draws up the final congressional map, it looks like only a newly created congressional district in rural northern Arizona would be a competitive race in 2002. The primary reason is the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights and packs Democrats into certain political districts.

On Tuesday, Republicans and Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., formed an unlikely alliance to block a central city district that would give Maricopa County its only competitive district. The proposed plan would include all of Tempe and parts of Scottsdale, Phoenix and Glendale.

Republicans now have a 5-to-1 advantage in the state's six districts. Under the draft map, all six incumbents would be protected. And a new district in southwestern Arizona would have a heavy minority population that would favor Democrats.

Danny Ortega, an attorney for Pastor, said that district would hurt existing "communities of interest." He also threatened a lawsuit if the percentage of Hispanic constituents significantly drops in Pastor's district in southwest Phoenix.

"The more you toy with competitiveness, the more trouble it will have with the Department of Justice," he said.

Jim Pederson, chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, said Pastor still would have one of the safest congressional districts in the country if the proposed plan passed. He also scoffed at the GOP's sudden interest in minority voting rights.

"The Voting Rights Act passed over the dead bodies of a lot of Republicans," said Pederson, who pumped $600,000 into Proposition 106 last year. "They've never been for the Voting Rights Act."

Nathan Sproul, executive director of the state GOP, took offense with Pederson's "historical revisionism."

"It's unfortunate that such an important issue would be reduced to an inflammatory sound bite," said Sproul, pointing to statistics that show more Republicans than Democrats voted for the Voting Rights Act in 1964

The charge of the five-person panel, established when voters approved Proposition 106 last year, has been to replace a highly political exercise in boundaries with one based on reason. The commission is meeting all week to carve out the final congressional and legislative maps. The new system has been much more public, but it hasn't taken the partisan political tug-of-war out of the mapmaking process.

Neil Wake, a Republican Party attorney, ripped the creation of a downtown district because it doesn't respect the Voting Rights Act and because it connects Tempe with Glendale.

"This plan would link disparate parts of the East Valley and the West Valley," he said. "It would not be approved by the Department of Justice."

Arizona Republic
Redistricting in Final Round; Parties, cities still duking it out
By Chip Scutari
October 7, 2001

Douglas Mayor Ray Borane doesn't want his border town to be lumped into the same legislative district that extends north past Scottsdale.

Jim Pederson, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, is lobbying for a downtown congressional district in Maricopa County.

Meanwhile, minorities are still fighting hard for more voting clout across the state. Welcome to the ninth inning of Arizona's independent redistricting experiment, in which a five-person panel will carve out the state's new political boundaries starting on Monday. It probably won't be as exciting as the Arizona Diamondbacks pennant drive, but this week should carry plenty of suspense. It will also have repercussions for every corner of the state.

First, the good news.

Under the draft map, minorities would have majority voices in two of the eight congressional districts and nine of the 30 districts that elect state legislators. That's up from the current count of one minority congressional district and seven such legislative districts.

Political mapmaking has been done in Arizona every 10 years since the 1960s on the basis of the latest population count and demographics. In the past, the mapping has been done by lawmakers, evoking cries of unfairness and gerrymandering from citizens shut out of the process. Proposition 106 changed that by creating a citizen-driven panel.

But it hasn't been easy.

The draft congressional map looks about as competitive as a high school hoopster playing a pick-up game against Michael Jordan. An independent study by Michael McDonald, an assistant professor of political studies at the University of Illinois, found that the draft plan has only one competitive congressional district. McDonald, who was hired by the commission, analyzed voting patterns of the 1990s.

That's why Pederson said he is pushing for a downtown district that would run through Tempe and parts of Scottsdale, Phoenix and Glendale.

"If you talk to any of the mayors in Scottsdale or Tempe, they have very little cooperation with our congressional delegation on key issues like mass transit," Pederson said. "The downtown areas really need a voice."

The biggest trouble spot on the legislative side is an odd-shaped district that includes Cochise, Pinal and Maricopa counties, stretching northeast from Douglas in southern Arizona past Fountain Hills.

"With poverty rates of 40 to 50 percent . . . what does Douglas have in common with north Scottsdale or Apache Junction?" Borane asked. "This totally asinine redistricting proposal stands to further isolate the Douglas community."

McDonald's report says there are seven competitive legislative districts. Only one of the 30 current districts is considered competitive.

 

 

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