After the latest round of attacks and counter attacks by Republican and Democrat party leaders over the alleged unfairness of the draft congressional district map proposed by the Independent Redistricting Commission, I went back to read the actual requirements for redistricting in the Arizona Constitution.
Guess what? The Constitution does not give any political party the right to have any representation in the redistricting process or the resulting maps. Political parties aren’t even mentioned in the criteria that the commission is legally required to use in its analysis.
Then I looked at Arizona voter statistics to see if they explain the current vitriol. They don’t. Arizona voter registration shows that the state is roughly a third Republican, a third Democrat and a third independent or other. So even if you were trying to fairly represent political parties, the state’s nine congressional districts should be divided three Republican, three Democrat and three independent. Better yet, if political party representation was the goal, all districts would have roughly equal voter party registration so that any candidate — from a major party or from no party — has a fair shot at winning.
The proposed redistricting map now under attack has four “safe” Republican districts, two “safe” Democrat districts, and three districts that are arguably competitive. But it’s the Republicans who are claiming the map unfairly favors Democrats. What gives?
The real reason behind this latest partisan fight has nothing to do with fairly representing voters, and everything to do with the self-interest of partisan political incumbents and potential candidates. Having grown accustomed to safe districts where they are elected and re-elected by a small and often extreme voter base from their own party, they do not now want to have to convince a much larger and more diverse group of voters of their qualifications to govern.
Some incumbents are threatening to move to other districts rather than represent the concerns of a broader segment of voters. Equally important, they do not want to run against each other in the safe districts where they plan to relocate. When are these partisan political “leaders” going to stop shouting so that the voices of average Arizonans can be heard? When are the people of Arizona going to demand that partisan party leaders stay out of the process long enough for the Independent Redistricting Commission to produce redistricting maps that fairly represent the people of the state and not the political self-interest of either party or its candidates?
— Lucia Fakonas Howard is a Phoenix attorney.