Drawing a new Arizona
Redistricting is a once-in-a-decade opportunity, especially for Arizona Latinos, who now make up close to 30 percent of the state’s population. This single fact will have a large and growing impact on the makeup of Arizona’s congressional delegation and Legislature over the next decade. Every policy issue is affected by who is elected to Congress and the Legislature, and every election for the next decade is affected by redistricting.
What is the redistricting process?
In 2000, Arizonans passed Proposition 106, a citizen-led initiative that removed the power to redistrict Arizona’s congressional and legislative districts from the legislature and invested the power into the newly created Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC). The commission is comprised of five members: two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent selected by the four commissioners.
The commission must abide by the following constitutional provisions when determining the new district lines: the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act; equal population; respect for communities of interest; geographic compactness and contiguity; respect for visible geographic features, city, town and county boundaries, and competitive districts should be favored, where to do so would create no significant detriment to the other goals.
Finally, the AIRC shall advertise a draft map of districts to the public for comment for at least 30 days. The Legislature may make recommendations during this comment period. Thereafter, a final map shall be adopted. The plan must then be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Why it matters
Eyes may glaze over when people hear about redistricting. They might wonder how large of an impact it has on their community. I can tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important to the future of our state than the current redistricting process. The decisions made by the AIRC will have an enormous impact on the future of Arizona. Due to a lack of fair and competitive districts during the redistricting process 10 years ago, extremists like Senate President Russell Pearce are elected by a few thousand Republican primary voters, and they never face a competitive general election.
This year, Arizona has the chance to change our political landscape, but we must learn about the process, get involved and engage our community to take an active role in redistricting. This process is currently under attack by an angry set of partisans whose stranglehold on our state is now being threatened. Republicans and Tea Partiers have been organizing protests at AIRC meetings – protests like those seen during the 2000 Florida recount and the 2009 healthcare town halls.
More significantly, Republican legislators and Republican Party State Chair Tom Morrissey are pressuring Gov. Brewer to call a legislative special session to remove the independent chair of the AIRC, so they can replace her with someone who will bend to their will. This kind of power play is grossly inappropriate and goes against the will of the voters who passed Proposition 106. There is even a proposal to completely repeal the constitutional amendment that created the commission.
Communities that actively participate in the redistricting process will have more power to shape the state than ever before; those that do not will allow others to decide who will represent them for the next decade.
The Arizona Democratic Party has initiated the Drawing a New Arizona Project to monitor and protect the integrity of the redistricting process. The project will serve as a watchdog to ensure the creation of fair, competitive districts that respect Arizona’s diverse communities. To learn more about the project, visit http://azdem.org/action/redistricting or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We must move forward together and take back our great state.
Luis A. Heredia is the executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party. A native Arizonan, Heredia was raised in Somerton. He graduated as a Leadership Scholar from Arizona State University where he also received the Robert L. Pastor Outstanding Undergraduate Award. He resides in Gilbert with his wife of ten years, Claudia, and his six-year-old son Abraham.