Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Legislative Republicans Seeking To Interfere In County Level Redistricting

...and "interfere" is something of an understatement...

State Sen. Lori Klein, late of the controversy over a bigoted letter that she read on the Senate floor, has proposed a strike-everything amendment to HB2289, one that is scheduled for committee consideration at Thursday's meeting of Senate Finance.

It concerns the redistricting of county supervisorial districts.

Her proposed measure would set up an "independent redistricting committee" in counties with five supervisorial districts.

Currently Maricopa, Pima, Cochise, Coconino, and Yuma counties each have five supervisor districts.  Because of the population counts of the 2010 Census, Mohave, Pinal, and Yavapai counties will have to go to a five-district plan.

The "independent" committee would be made up of the current supervisors (either five or three, as appropriate) plus *six* members appointed by legislative Republicans and the Governor.

Specifically, the Speaker and majority leader of the House would each get to appoint one person, as would the President and majority leader of the Senate.  In addition, the governor would get to appoint two members of each county's "independent" redistricting commission.

Those folks, the legislative leadership and the governor, are all Republicans, who can be reasonably be expected to appoint fellow Republicans.  And there is nothing in the proposal to require that the commissions be partisanly balanced or even non-partisan.

So that trend would translate to commissions made up of -

10 Republicans and 1 Democrat (Maricopa)

8 Republicans and 3 Democrats (Pima)

7 Republicans and 2 Democrats (Pinal)

9 Republicans (Yavapai)

9 Republicans (Mohave)

9 Republicans and 2 Democrats (Yuma)

6 Republicans and 5 Democrats (Coconino)

7 Republicans and 4 Democrats (Cochise)

Oh, and in case the partisan gamesmanship behind this isn't obvious already, there are two other clause in the proposal that make it even more obvious -

1.  The Republican governor has final approval over *any* county redistricting plan.

2.  The new plan sunsets after December 31, 2015, when there will be a new governor and legislative leadership, who may not be (fingers crossed) Republicans.

While slightly more than half of Arizona's counties, 8 out of 15, will be affected by this measure, those counties contain more than 94% of the state's residents

There is a reason that Arizona is, and almost certainly will remain, a "preclearance" state under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

NB - Am I the only person that thinks that Klein and her fellow Republicans have a curiously self-serving definition of the word "independent"?  It make the voters' wisdom in creating the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission look better by the day.  It may be time to do something similar for the county level.

NB2 - I *really* can't even hazard a guess as to why this one is going before Finance.  Yes, Klein is a member of Finance, but she is also a member of Government Reform, which this is a better fit with.  Of course, Judiciary is the best fit, but she isn't a member of that committee.

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