by Jim Nintzel
The Independent Redistricting Commission is meeting in Tucson tonight as part of the statewide series of public hearings on the proposed congressional and legislative maps for the next decade.
Yeah, we know it sounds boring—but the politics surrounding the IRC continue to be explosive. In the most recent developments, Republican state lawmakers have begun having hearings on the maps via a Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting. This is a partisan effort; GOP leaders who set up the committee did not consult with Democratic leaders about which members of the minority party should be appointed to the new committee, so the Democrats who got appointed decided to sit out the process. On the one hand, that means that Democrats don’t get to counter GOP arguments; on the other, they’re not giving bipartisan cover to the effort.
Blogger Steve Muratore, who has covered the IRC more extensively than any other media in the state, got tossed out of Friday’s committee hearing for mouthing the word “bullshit” to state Sen. Andy Biggs.
GOP lawmakers say the hearings are just an effort to allow lawmakers to weigh on redistricting and is not a step toward removing any member of the IRC, although state Sen. Andy Biggs has told the Associated Press that he expects a full special session on redistricting, perhaps as soon as next week.
Whether that would involve any effort to boot members of the IRC, who are fighting with Attorney General Tom Horne over the open-meeting law, remains to be seen.
Removing members of the IRC requires a two-third majority of the Arizona Senate, which Republicans currently hold. Gov. Jan Brewer recently used the “magic words” that could lead to an impeachment effort.
State Sen. Frank Antenori, who is exploring a congressional run, says he doesn't think the Legislature will go so far as to try to remove members of the IRC.
“I think it’s too late,” Antenori says. “I don’t think it’s worth doing right now.”
Antenori had supported the idea of removing commission chairwoman Colleen Mathis “back in May or June, when it would have made a difference. What would it do now, besides making Mathis a martyr?”
Antenori would like to see lawmakers ask voters to get rid of the IRC altogether and put the power of redistricting back in the hands of the Arizona Legislature.
“Nobody’s really happy with the current system,” Antenori says.
Antenori’s preferred approach: “You have the Democrats draw a map and you have the Republicans draw a map. Map No. 1 and Map No. 2. You put them both on the ballot. You let the voters pick: Option 1 or Option 2.”
He anticipates that the maps as currently drawn “are not anywhere near” the final boundaries.
“The commission is going to change it,” he says. “Those maps will not stand.”
Antenori notes that Democrats and Republicans, along with other observers, have expressed frustration with elements of the maps.
“The Native American population is pissed,” Antenori says. “You’ve got people in Green Valley that are pissed. You’ve got Oro Valley and everybody all ticked off. Republicans, Democrats, it don’t matter.”