Brewer won't call special session to repeal redistricting commission - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Brewer won't call special session to repeal redistricting commission

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Posted: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 3:03 pm | Updated: 1:43 pm, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

Saying she won't be rushed into action, Gov. Jan Brewer said Tuesday she will not call lawmakers back to the Capitol on Wednesday to ask voters to make changes to -- or repeal outright -- the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Brewer said she still believes that the process of drawing lines for the state's 30 legislative and nine congressional districts has not been done openly and in compliance with constitutional mandates. She said that is why she tried to fire Colleen Mathis as chairwoman, an action voided by the state Supreme Court.

But Brewer said she has seen "no evidence'' that voters are ready to scrap the commission they created in 2000.

Press aide Matthew Benson was more specific.

"Proposition 106 was approved by Arizona voters,'' he noted, citing the successful 2000 initiative that took the task of drawing the lines away from lawmakers themselves and giving it to the five-member panel.

That means it would take another vote to eliminate it. But that, in turn, would require a special legislative session no later than Wednesday to put the issue on the Feb. 28 ballot.

"Polling that we have seen doesn't show willingness right now to throw out the commission.''

That reliance of the governor on polling annoyed Senate Majority Whip Frank Antenori, R-Tucson.

"If you believe in something and you think it's the right way to remedy the problem, you should do it and you shouldn't wait for a poll,'' he said. Anyway, he said, if politicians relied on polls there would be no need for elections.

"We'd just pay some consultant to do a poll and say, 'Oh, well, that's the way it's going to go,' '' Antenori continued. "But a lot of times polls are wrong.''

Benson said his boss would be willing to call a special session to ask voters for something less radical than repeal.

"But, of course, it's going to depend on what those reforms are,'' Benson said. And he said there is no consensus in the Legislature -- at least among the Republicans who dominate both chambers -- exactly what form that should take.

Senate President-elect Steve Pierce said that's not entirely true.

He said leadership already had a bill drafted and ready to go that expanded the commission to nine, with three Republicans, three Democrats and three not affiliated with either party. And the same measure would have required at least two of the nine to come from rural areas; currently all five commissioners are from Maricopa or Pima counties.

But Pierce said he won't waste time trying to change Brewer's mind.

"She's made it very clear she's not going to rethink this,'' he said.

Today was the last day lawmakers could have a special session to put the issue on the Feb. 28 ballot. That is the day of the state's presidential preference primary, though there is no contest on the Democratic side.

What that leaves, Pierce said, is lawmakers crafting changes to the commission when they return in January.

But anything they propose at that point could not go to voters for ratification before next year's election. That means no chance to have a reformed commission craft new maps that Republicans believe are less biased toward Democrats in time for the 2012 race.

Brewer said that isn't an important enough reason to act now.

"We cannot act in haste -- or in anger -- when it comes to something as critical as the way in which Arizona draws its congressional and legislative districts,'' the governor said in her statement. "Our action must be reasoned and rational, and there must be a defined path to victory with voters.''

But that does not automatically mean the lines the commission finally adopts will be in place next year. Pierce said, though, he expects legal challenges to be filed to the plan by those who believe the commission has not complied with all the legal requirements.

The governor's decision came as the commission met for the first time since Brewer's ill-fated attempt to fire Mathis.

Much of Tuesday's meeting focused on what has to happen now to create final maps that are ready to present to the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal law gives that agency the option to "preclear'' any changes in Arizona's voting laws based on the state's prior history of discrimination against minorities.

But the commission is facing other deadlines.

County election officials want to see the final lines to enable them to redraw the boundaries for voting precincts to align with the new districts. And candidates want to know in which district they have been placed to allow them to start gathering signatures for the 2012 election.

How quickly commissioners can act depends on what changes they are willing to make.

Many of the comments that came in during more than two dozen public hearings complained about lines that split "communities of interest.''

One in particular relates to the fact that the plan splits Cochise County into two congressional districts. But it's not a simple matter of putting Bowie, San Simon and other rural sections back with the adjacent district.

There is a domino effect: Moving people out of the rural district means finding an equal number from somewhere else to add in. And that might create complaints from those who are affected.

Similarly, any move to revisit a plan to split Yuma between two legislative districts also is not simple, as any change would affect the percentage of minorities in each. And federal law precludes states from drawing political lines in ways that dilute minority voting strength.

 

 

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