A House panel has approved a change in the way legislative elections are run, a change even its sponsor said may help some of them keep their seats.Current law has voters elect one senator and two representatives from each of the 30 legislative districts around the state.
HCR2018, approved on a 5-2 vote Tuesday by the House Government Committee, would split each of those districts in half, meaning one House member from what would become 60 districts.
Rep. Sam Crump, R-Anthem, said the current system spreads House members too thin.
He said the average district can have 90,000 registered voters, larger than many cities.
It would also shrink the size of these new districts.
For example, District 30, which now stretches from Mount Lemmon northeast of Tucson to Sierra Vista, would be split in half according to population, as would District 2, which runs from the Four Corners into Flagstaff.
But Crump conceded there's also a political motive behind his measure.
Right now, the top two vote-getters in each district are the ones who serve.
He said if district residents are unhappy with just one of the incumbents there may be several challengers.
What can happen, Crump said, is the other legislator - the one who isn't being targeted - could get "caught up in the whole race and campaign and nobody really wanted to run against you at all."
Crump acknowledged the two highest vote-getters are, in fact, the ones who are ultimately seated.
But he said that doesn't make the process really democratic.
"I think it's a key democratic principle that if you want to try to replace somebody, you should have the right to do that," he said.
Crump said the current system forces a challenger to run against both incumbents and raises the real possibility that the one unseated is not the one targeted.
"That doesn't seem democratic," he said.
"You should have the right to challenge a person head-on," Crump continued, the same as someone seeking to unseat a member of Congress.
The measure, which now goes to the full House, would ultimately require voter approval.
If it passes, the change would take effect with the 2012 election.