Arizona’s Representation in the U.S. House of Representatives is likely to shift to a Republican majority, with the Arizona Independent Redefining Commission unanimously approving a transformative, GOP-based congressional map Wednesday.
However in the end the commissioners could not be united.
After a full day of debate and debate, the commissioners approved a pro-Republican but balanced map for the districts in the legislature by a controversial 3-2 vote.
Arizona’s current congressional delegation includes five Democrats and four Republicans. The new map will support Republicans in five of the state’s nine counties and six if they face legal challenges.
Nevertheless, the five-member commission approved the map with a 5-0 vote, citing Republican Commissioner Douglas York as the reason for Independent leader Erica Newberg’s effort, calling the map “a pleasant place for all parties to stand well.”
“Every page is deeply disappointed by the features of this map,” he admitted.
Registered Republicans are the largest electorate in the state, followed by the Independents and later the Democrats.
Arizona and other states redraw their political maps every 10 years based on the census. Voters developed an independent redefinition system in 2000 with a ballot initiative.
How the consensus vote came together
During the final debate on the map in Congress on Tuesday, Democratic Commissioners Shereen Lerner and Derrick Watchman expressed grave concern about the map, saying it had not changed at all after long days of making minor changes. But on Wednesday, Lerner said the map had actually been improved.
Confirming Newberg’s move to recognize the map, Lerner said, “We have made a lot of progress in these months as we move forward.” “There are some advantages to this map as well, and some things could have been done better.”
Expressing frustration that the map was not as competitive as Democrats had hoped, he said the political situation could “grow” in the next 10 years and the state is now “in a different place” than it was 10 years ago.
In 2010, there were five Republicans and three Democrats in eight districts in Arizona. The state added a ninth district after the 2010 census, but did not get the 10th congressional seat in 2020, as many expected.
“We listened to a lot of people,” Republican Commissioner Douglas York said during a public hearing. “We worked hard to combine the demands of the Latin Alliance and the Native Americans … I’m very happy to have a fifth vote on this map.”
York added pride to Newberg for making the decision unanimously.
“She worked to get us to go to the center,” he said. “Both were not happy, so she won.”
Newberg, a Chandler psychologist, was criticized by Democrats for not being completely independent of the process. He said since the start of the process last summer, he hopes to reach a consensus on the maps rather than heading into a bitter, discriminatory process as a tiebreaker.
The 2011 restructuring process was highly controversial, and Colin Mathews, an independent leader, was ousted by Republicans and suspended until the state Supreme Court reinstated him.
Map for Assembly Separation Committee
The approved maps for the districts in the Legislature are divided into 13-12 for Republicans and have five more competing districts. The Arizona Legislature has a total of 30 districts.
Although four of those five districts belong to Republicans, they are all highly competitive and any party candidate can win. If the Democrats win four of the five districts they are contesting, they could flip at least one room. Three turns will create a power-sharing situation.
Currently, the Senate has a 16-14 advantage over the Republicans, while the House has a GOP of 31-29.
The split vote confronted Newberg’s goal of reaching a consensus on the maps, and combined with the previous 3-2 vote to advance the draft maps, which the Democrats did not want, could open him up to further criticism of his independence.
Watchman focused on improving the preferences of Native American communities in the state, saying he and Navajo Nation leaders were satisfied with the changes recommended by Republican commissioners, which raised the number of Native Americans of voting age in Assembly District 6.
The largest district on the map, it covers most of North-Central and Northeastern Arizona and covers most of the state’s tribal communities. The changes transformed some White Mountain communities into Assembly District 7.
“This is really the spirit of compromise,” Newberg said after Watchman said he supported the district.
The North Phoenix district is provoking controversy
Still, there were some obstacles before the final vote.
Lerner and Watchman began the legislative debate by drawing a definite line in the sand: Legal District 2 would not be compromised, and Lerner said Monday it was transformed into a pro-Republican highly competitive district for no apparent reason. There was a very competitive and democratic bias.
The district is cross-sectional and extends north of Phoenix, north of the North Hill, into the Shaw Butte Cave Butts recreation area, and from 43rd Avenue to approximately State Route 51.
If York and Mehl wanted to reconsider that district, they had districts they would like to reconsider, including the highly competitive GOP-based Assembly District 13.
The Commission defines competitiveness as a measure of the Republican and Democratic votes in the major statewide races over the past three election cycles and the number of parties that won those races.
The most recent draft for the region had a competitiveness factor of 3.8%, with Republicans most likely to win and Lerner 1.1% with Democrats. Anything below 4% marks is considered “highly competitive”.
Arguments heated up slightly following the lunch break, with Commissioners Mehl and Lerner occasionally talking to each other. Although LD2 changed on Monday, Mehl raised his voice to interrupt the learner that the commission wanted with several minor changes in other districts.
Lerner said the goal was to “remove the Democrats and add Republicans to the district.”
The commissioners hold a final vote
Later in the afternoon, Newberg said the debate seemed adequate and that he was ready to vote on the legislative map. At the time, Lerner said he had “evidence” of possible mapping by a commissioner, taking into account the lawmaker’s home address, which was illegal. The commission went to the executive session for about half an hour, but when they reconvened they did not face Lerner’s indictment.
Newberg said he wanted to give the commissioners “one last chance” to fix the district in question. Lerner said four proposals for changes in the district have already been rejected. Newberg said he saw no “compulsion” and would move forward by voting.
The Watchman voted no, while Mehl and York voted yes, while Lerner fulfilled his vow.
“I think this map is an amazing map for the state of Arizona,” Mehl said. “So glad we ended up with a win-win.”
York examined the list of new districts and their benefits, noting that voting rights districts with a majority of minority voters have a better chance of choosing their preferred candidates.
Newberg, before the vote, said the maps “will further encourage elected leaders to focus on their constituencies … regions are relatively balanced and well cared for.” In terms of competitiveness, “toss-ups” mean that Arizona’s political future is not set in stone.
“We have worked hard together to make better decisions,” he said. “I promise yes.”
Lerner later addressed the commission, saying the discrimination surprised itself. One example, he said, was that it was better to separate than to keep it intact, despite the public testimony that “the district of Yavabai is sacred in our counsel.”
As the Coconino County Democratic Party leader Ann Heidland wrote in a December 4 comment in The Arizona Republic, the liberal-leaning Sedona is now “divided between two secure Republican districts.”
Lerner voted no after his speech.
Newberg said the commission was “proud of the joint effort.”
Criticism from Democratic groups increased after the split vote.
According to Steve Gallardo, co – chairman of the Latin Alliance for Fair Reconstruction and Marigopa County Supervisor, Newberg “has nothing to do with justice.” Coalition members believe their will has been ignored because the Congress and legislative maps depend on the Republican Party, he said.
“This process was fraudulent from the beginning,” Gallardo said. “We compromised a lot.”
The Confederation met with Newberg several times, providing a map with increased competitiveness that matched the eight Latin-majority districts instead of the seven Latin-majority districts, but now it looks like “we were talking to the wall”.
“We have no seat and any time we rely on non-Latinists, we are always disappointed,” he said.
What happens next
Following the US Supreme Court ruling in 2013, the map of the New Congress did not require verification by the U.S. judiciary because past maps have a history of marginalizing Arizona’s minority electorate.
Some more administrative changes need to be made by the 15 districts of the state on the approved map; The Commission may once again meet to ensure that those changes are truly administrative only. The new map will then be sent to the Office of the Secretary of State, where it will be certified and used for the 2022 election cycle.