Timing is now a point of contention between members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
The commissioners were divided Friday during a meeting in Tempe as they discussed when to plan on approving draft versions of new congressional and legislative district maps for use in elections in the coming decade.
The draft maps will be the subject of a constitutionally required monthlong public comment period before the panel can formally approve final versions that would be used in elections in the coming decade.
And the commission will likely take some time to revise the draft maps after the public comment period, which will include hearings held around the state.
“I’m sure the public is going to come out and educate us on the error of our ways,” Commissioner Scott Freeman said dryly.
Several other commissioners said they want to plan on adopting draft maps by the end of September.
“These are draft maps that we’ll be creating,” said Commissioner Jose Herrera, a Phoenix Democrat. “We’re going to make changes anyway.”
Freeman and another commissioner said that’s rushing things by a week or so because there’s no apparent consensus on what the maps should look like, especially the legislative one.
“It’s a tough and important job. We’ve got to make sure we do it right,” said Freeman, a Phoenix Republican who sided on the issue with a Democratic member from Tucson.
While several members said they’ve made progress on a congressional map, “we aren’t done with the congressional maps yet and we haven’t started the legislative maps,” said Commissioner Linda McNulty, the Tucson Democrat.
Chair Colleen Mathis, an independent who sided with Herrera, said a member who was absent from Friday’s meeting could represent a tiebreaker when the commission meets next Thursday.
Officials said counties bear the consequences if the commission delays in completing its work because the state’s maps because factor into their election preparations.
Joe Kanefield, one of the commission’s attorneys, said counties have a Dec. 1 deadline of their own to draw election precincts. It creates problems if the state-approved congressional and legislative map splits a county’s precincts, Kanefield said.
“We need that information as soon as possible,” Cochise County Recorder Christine Rhodes said when contacted later. “We will live with what we get but we would like some definitive information as early in November as possible.”
There wouldn’t be conflicts between the state maps and a county’s precincts if the county is entirely within one congressional district and one legislative district, Rhodes said from Bisbee, “But we’re still very concerned about how soon we’ll get the information.”