by Jim Nintzel
While I generally agree with the morning daily's point that GOP legislative leaders are barking up the wrong tree—and wasting taxpayer dollars—in their latest attack on the Independent Redistricting Commission, I can't help but scratch my head about this assertion in today's Star editorial:
While districts can never be completely equal, the redistricting commission has done a good job of balancing the requirements it must work under (see box). A quick look at the latest Arizona voter registration report, which notes voters’ party affiliation, shows no district has an insurmountable advantage for either party.
Looking at congressional races since the commission was established, the balance of power has fluctuated between Republicans and Democrats. These shifts are as it should be. There should be no “safe district” for any party if we hope to have lawmakers compromise for the good of all.
No district has an insurmountable edge? That must have been a very quick look at the latest voter registration counts. How about Congressman Raul Grijalva's district, where 123,000 voters are Democrats and 61,000 are Republicans? Or Congressman Paul Gosar's district, where 155,000 voters are Republicans and 78,000 are Democrats? Or Pima County's Legislative District 3, where 42,000 voters are Democrats and just 14,600 voters are Republicans?
The competitive districts remain a rarity in Arizona, despite independent redistricting. Only three of the nine congressional districts are competitive (and they were all close races in 2012). And here's a breakdown of competitiveness viewed in various ways developed by the Independent Redistricting Commission itself, which clearly shows only a handful of the 30 legislative districts are competitive. There are reasons for that, based on geography, communities of interest, and other factors, but let's face it: If every district were competitive, our legislative races would be a lot more interesting. Arguing that there are no "safe districts" suggests a laugh-out-loud misunderstanding of the basics of Arizona's political landscape.