Arizona Redistribution Panel in the Throes of Final Mapping | US government and politics


By BOB CHRISTIE – Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) – The Arizona commission that is redrawing the boundaries of legislative districts and Congress appeared poised to tilt Congress’ cards sharply towards Republicans before Friday’s votes made that less likely.

The independent chairman’s Friday decision to side with the two Democrats on the committee came as a surprise to many, as President Erika Neuberg has only broken with the two Republicans on the panel twice in recent months. The decisions come as the panel rushes to finalize the new maps next week that will be in use for the next decade.

The Congress cards appear likely to see Republicans winning at least two more seats, swinging the nine-member state congressional delegation from its 5-4 Democratic majority to a 6-3 Republican roster. But even with the changes made by the committee on Friday, the Democratic seats held by Representatives Tom O’Halleran and Anne Kirkpatrick, who had previously announced she was planning to retire, could shift.

The congressional map passed by a 3-2 vote on Friday begins with three strong Democratic districts and four Republicans. Two others are very competitive. Changes made by the commission and more in the coming days will determine the end result.

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The Republicans had proposed a map with six solid Republican seats, two Democrats and a competitive district leaning slightly towards the Democrats.

The legislative map is also very changeable, and the five members of the Arizona Independent District Commission spent much of Friday morning rearranging district lines after a 3-2 vote to start with a revised map suggested by the two Democrats on the panel.

Democrats are trying to lock in their party’s gains over the past decade, which has seen them shoot almost to a tie in the 60-member GOP-controlled House. The Republican majority in the 30-seat Senate has been fairly consistent with a margin of one or two seats since the previous ten-year redistribution.

Republicans hold one seat margins in each chamber, and their proposal for all 30 districts was geared toward taking back some of those seats.

Democrats watching the process see little hope that they will end up with a chance to gain legislative control.

“It doesn’t look like there will be a way Democrats can take control unless literally every star lines up and every type of factor that influences elections all lines up at the same time,” the President said. State Senator Martin Quezada.

The panel, made up of two Republicans, two Democrats and Neuberg, an independent president who has mainly backed Republican-backed versions of the cards, met three days this week and has scheduled four additional meetings. It will meet from Sunday to Wednesday, when it plans to vote on the final cards.

However, Neuberg sided with the Democrats on the legislative map on Friday morning. She said their proposal better incorporated the needs of the state’s minority communities.

“I want the public to know that we are disappointed,” Republican Commissioner Douglas York said after the vote.

Despite Friday morning’s disappointment, Republicans managed to assert their priorities in the legislature, pulling a new secure seat in the heavily Democratic Tucson area where they were locked out in 2011.

Where they’ve really come out on top – at least so far – is on the cards of Congress. Draft maps passed in October transformed O’Halleran 1st District into a strong Republican District by adding the conservative Yavapai County. The current and proposed districts extend eastward and include the strong Democratic majority Navajo Nation.

An effort by Democratic Commissioner Derrick Watchman last week to erase Yavapai County’s inclusion fell flat, with Neuberg refusing to accept it.

The map projects also remade Kirkpatrick District 2 to a GOP-friendly district by excluding parts of Tucson and adding areas in northern Pima County that are much more Republican.

Neuberg also made it unusually clear on Thursday that she disagreed with a Democratic push to focus on creating more competitive districts. The commission set up by the voters in 2000 sets out a series of criteria for the panel to consider, and it said it believes competitiveness is the least of these.

It has focused more on “communities of interest”, on which other Commissioners also focus. In reality, these communities of interest have always equaled the establishment of areas with similar political tendencies.

Neuberg has also acted on several occasions as a peacemaker and consensus builder, and received praise earlier last week from Democratic Commissioner Shereen Lerner. She said Neuberg was unfairly criticized by Democrats, as the 2011 commission chairman was ten years ago by Republicans.

“I believe our president has the best interests of the state in mind and will work to that end,” Lerner said. “And I know she worked to understand the needs of our state.”

Neuberg said she decided to start with the Democratic Congress card on Friday because it better addressed the areas of concern to her. Whether this will lead to a more balanced end product remains uncertain.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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