A new non-partisan coalition is giving anyone the chance to help make a difference in Arizona politics for the next 10 years.
The Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition is providing software and conducting a competition to see who in Arizona can design the best legislative and congressional districts to make voting in Arizona more competitive and stop gerrymandering.
In 1991 the redistricting process in Arizona was done by the state Senate. Many of the districts at that time favored incumbents rather than creating competition.
In 2000 voters passed an initiative creating the Independent Redistricting Commission that would draw new lines every 10 years. In 2001 the commission drew new lines but they were heavily influenced by legislators and lobbyists.
The result was even less competition than before. This year ACDC is hoping to stop gerrymandering and encourage citizens to get involved with their Redistricting Arizona Competition.
"We want to make redistricting more accessible to people," said Ken Clark, a former state representative and co-chair of ACDC. "Ten years ago if you wanted to participate in the redistricting process in Arizona and you had an idea and you wanted to draw a map you had a few choices. One is to draw something on paper. That's very difficult. Or you could go buy $1,500 in software and get another $1,000 in training on how to use it. So it wasn't very accessible to people. This software is free to the public and we seek donations to keep it running."
The group believes that through this online competition it can supply the IRC with better options for district lines. They supply participants with the software needed and six of the commission's criteria for selecting districts.
The best two legislative and the best two congressional maps that create the most competition and fairness will be presented to the IRC for consideration.
At this time there is no monetary prize for winning the competition, but Clark says they're working with businesses to come up with something.
Even if there is no monetary gain the winner will get the satisfaction of knowing they helped make one of the biggest decisions in Arizona politics this year.
"There's a great line, ‘Why stuff ballots when you can draw maps,'" Clark said. "The lines that we draw, the boundary lines for legislative and congressional districts that we draw right now, this year, will be in place until 2020. Every political campaign that runs in this state after this year could be defined by this mapping process. So we've got to get it right."
The software is available online at azredistricting.com. There's an instruction manual on how to use it and there will also be videos on how to use it coming soon.
The competition closes June 6 and the winners will be announced June 14.
"This is the most important political event happening right now in Arizona," Clark said. "Sadly, it is the least observed. In politics that which is least observed is often where it most needs transparency. We need citizens to be involved and make their voices heard."
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