Arizona Republicans think so. In fact the row over redistricting is making this ordinarily bland matter of state business into a war.
There are a few guidelines for the commission creating the map (made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent chair):
- the districts should be compact and contiguous
- they should comprise areas of common interest
- they should make use of natural boundaries
- they must be equal sizes by population.
La Paz County Recorder Shelly Baker can’t see how the proposed district including La Paz County is compact, nor how it comprises areas of common interest with, say, Yavapai County or the Maricopa County portion of the proposed district.
“Russ Jones made a proposal which would have kept Yuma County and La Paz County together, that made a lot more sense,” Baker said. “But clearly this commission started with the premise that the border towns be together.”
District 4, shown in green above, is a wide arch, extending all the way from the western boundary of Arizona through Yavapai County and the Prescott area and down to the eastern side of the Phoenix area.
Although Baker acknowledges that the commission has a difficult job, she, along with La Paz County Assessor George Nault and many other Republicans, feels the map is designed to keep the Democratic-leaning minority votes together. “It would be impossible for a Republican to win in some districts. That’s where the whole gerrymandering thing comes in,” she said.
Gerrymandering is the process of manipulating political boundaries so that they favor one party or class.
The war hit a peak last week as Republican Governor Jan Brewer used her power as governor to oust the chairperson, Colleen Mathis, who Republicans contend hired a mapping firm with ties to Democrats. Mathis had made adjustments to the congressional map from home one weekend last month, prompting some to label it “the midnight switch”. When she returned with her version of the map, the western Arizona ‘river district’ including La Paz County had been extended to the east side of metropolitan Maricopa County and took in Fountain Hills.
Brewer also wanted to remove the two Democrats on the commission, but couldn’t get the votes.
The commission responded with a lawsuit, saying the move exceeded the governor’s authority. The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to fast-track the case and will hear oral arguments later this month.
“Right now? It’s a mess,” Baker said.
With the chairperson gone, the redistricting process has ground to a halt. ASU’s Jennifer Steen says the 2012 election will probably unfold under court-drawn maps instead.
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission’s website can be found HERE.