Arizona Panel Begins Redistricting Work With Public Hearings
The state commission that will draw new congressional and legislative districts for use in elections during the coming decade is wrapping up a series of public hearings for Arizonans to provide input on how the districts should be drawn.
The 15 “listening tour” hearings, which began July 23 in Florence and will end Monday in Mesa, have focused on how the Independent Redistricting Commission should heed its constitutional duty to “respect communities of interest to the extent practicable.”
Many attending the hearings already conducted told the current commission where the speakers think the last one went wrong, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.
At one hearing, Tempe resident Tracey Ireland said her community that is now part of Legislative District 27 identifies more with neighboring Legislative District 18, which has comparatively less areas that are in the city of Phoenix.
“We have different school boards, different city councils, different everything except for legislative leadership,” Ireland said. “…The candidates are always going to be from South Phoenix; they’re never going to be from our community of interest.”
While turnout was “better than expected” for the first several hearings, commission Chair Erika Neuberg said during the commission’s July 27 regular meeting she was concerned about voices not heard.
“For example, people that are remarkably satisfied with their districts, they’re probably not showing up,” Neuberg said.
She suggested that the commission consider doing “more proactive work with soliciting information” from county supervisors, city council members and others.
Mapping consultant Doug Johnson that people attending the hearings were unlikely to be those happy with current districts but said more input is expected once grid maps are drafted.
Grid maps are the precursors to draft maps that later evolve into final maps. The grid maps outline districts that are compact and have equal population but don’t factor in other criteria. They are created with the goal to start the redistricting process from scratch, without regard to the current map.
“It’s a useful starting point. But it’s a starting point that is a bit of a mess, obviously, by design,” Johnson said.