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Home / Featured News / Brewer takes first step in removal of redistricting commissioners

Brewer takes first step in removal of redistricting commissioners

Gov. Jan Brewer (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Gov. Jan Brewer demanded answers from the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission about a handful of alleged improprieties, the first step in the process for forcibly removing one or more of the commissioners.

Brewer today sent a letter to all five commissioners seeking a response to allegations that the IRC violated open meeting laws, public records laws and the constitutionally mandated criteria for redistricting. The letter comes as Republican lawmakers, conservative activists and others have been clamoring for a special session of the Legislature to remove IRC Chairwoman Colleen Mathis, who has been accused of colluding with the commission’s two Democrats.

The governor accused the commissioners of “substantial neglect of duty and gross misconduct in office,” repeating verbatim the provision in the Arizona Constitution that details the grounds for removing a commissioner from the panel. The removal of a commissioner requires the approval of the governor and two-thirds of the Senate.

“I am duty bound to ensure that Arizona’s redistricting process is constitutionally sound and worthy of the full faith and confidence of Arizona voters,” Brewer wrote. “The IRC has violated constitutional requirements.”

The five commissioners did not return messages seeking comments. IRC Executive Director Ray Bladine said the commissioners were working on a response to Brewer’s “serious allegations.”

“Hopefully, that will resolve the matter, because continuing down this precarious path could end up sticking the taxpayers with substantial legal expenses,” Bladine said in a written statement. “The commission has worked hard to incorporate all six constitutional criteria and is certainly interested in improving upon the draft maps.”

In her letter, Brewer cited a section of the Constitution requiring the governor to serve written notice to any commissioner before the removal process can be initiated. She demanded responses from the commissioners by Oct. 31, though the Arizona Constitution does not stipulate a timeframe.

Brewer requested responses to a number of complaints, including allegations that:
• Commissioners had private conversations with each other to pre-arrange votes to award a contract to Strategic Telemetry, a mapping consulting firm with deep ties to Democratic candidates and causes.
• Commissioners had conversations with each other about awarding a perfect score to Strategic Telemetry to improve its evaluation for the IRC’s procurement process.
• Commissioners refused to cooperate with an investigation by Attorney General Tom Horne in to alleged open meeting violations.
• The IRC abandoned the “grid map” it is required to start the redistricting process with and unconstitutionally used competitiveness as the primary factor in drawing a congressional district based in Tempe and central Phoenix.
• The commission violated constitutional requirements on compactness and the use of visible geographic features when it drew two proposed rural congressional districts.
• Commissioners hired multiple attorneys to represent them individually in Horne’s investigation without the legal authority to do so.

Horne has unsuccessfully sought much of the same information from the commission. He is trying to force the commissioners to testify in his investigation.

“I believe good-faith answers can cast much needed light upon the actions of the IRC. This is your opportunity respond to the issues raised above and to the following list of IRC actions contributing to substantial neglect of duty and gross misconduct in office,” Brewer wrote.

The Arizona Democratic Party accused Brewer of a “power grab,” saying she and Republican legislators would only be satisfied with maps that guarantee “total GOP control” of the state.

“Gov. Brewer is drunk with power,” Democratic Chairman Andrei Cherny said in a press release. “She is moving toward impeachment of citizens on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission simply because these volunteers have fulfilled their duty to draw fair and competitive districts. Such a brazen power grab would rival any in Arizona history.”

The letter represented an apparent change of heart for Brewer, who told Arizona Capitol Times on Oct. 20 that she had no indication that there would be a special session. She indicated that she would wait until after the IRC’s 30-day public comment period ends on Nov. 5, and expressed hope that the commission would make changes that would make a special session unnecessary.

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said he wasn’t aware of the governor’s comments and didn’t know why she had apparently changed her mind on the issue.

“The issues surrounding the IRC have continued to be a concern for the governor. She believes that now is the time for the IRC members themselves to speak to some of these allegations,” Benson said.

It is unknown whether the new members of the IRC would have enough time to complete the redistricting process if one or more commissioners were removed. The U.S. Department of Justice has 60 to 90 days to approve or reject Arizona’s proposed maps, and candidates for elected office will need time to collect signatures and organize their campaigns before the May 30 filing deadline.

If the process were not finished in time, a lawsuit could force a panel of three federal judges to draw the maps themselves, as happened in 1992 with Arizona’s congressional districts.

Benson said the governor believes the maps can be redrawn, or at least altered, in time to avoid having judges draw the maps that Arizona will use for the next 10 years.

“We’re not willing to concede that that’s where this has to end up. For that matter, again, we are at step one here in terms of just seeking answers from some of these members,” he said. “There’s nothing to say that a new commission would have to start from scratch.”

Benson also said the letter was not necessarily a precursor to the removal of one or more commissioners, but would not say what response or what changes to the maps would be sufficient to head off a special session. The IRC has not yet finalized the map, which is subject to change once it concludes its second round of hearings on Nov. 5.

If Brewer initiates the removal process, it is unknown whether she and the Senate would focus only on Mathis, an independent, or expand it to include the commission’s two Democrats and two Republicans.

If Mathis were ousted, Democratic Commissioners Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty and Republican Commissioners Scott Freeman and Richard Stertz would choose a new chair from a pool of three candidates selected by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments.

Brewer also submitted her official comments on the maps. In the separate letter, said the IRC did not respect communities of interest, did not create compact and contiguous districts, disregarded geographic and political boundaries, ignored the needs of rural Arizonans and elevated competitiveness above all other constitutional criteria.

She specifically objected to congressional districts that cut Yuma and Cochise counties in half, and referred to proposed Districts 1, 3 and 4 as “patently tortured and spliced.” District 9, which includes Tempe and the Arcadia, Biltmore and Ahwatukee Foothills areas of Phoenix, was drawn in violation of the IRC’s six constitutional criteria, she alleged.

“I have many concerns about the draft map. The concerns are so grave that I believe the IRC has not satisfied its constitutional duty requiring it to conduct this vital electoral activity in an honest, independent and impartial fashion that upholds the public confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process,” Brewer wrote.

The Arizona Democratic Party accused Brewer of a “power grab,” saying she and Republican legislators would only be satisfied with maps that guarantee “total GOP control” of the state.

Gov. Brewer is drunk with power,” Democratic Chairman Andrei Cherny said in a press release. “She is moving toward impeachment of citizens on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission simply because these volunteers have fulfilled their duty to draw fair and competitive districts. Such a brazen power grab would rival any in Arizona history.”

The letter represented an apparent change of heart for Brewer, who told Arizona Capitol Times on Oct. 20 that she had no indication that there would be a special session. She indicated that she would wait until after the IRC’s 30-day public comment period ends on Nov. 5, and expressed hope that the commission would make changes that would make a special session unnecessary.

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said he wasn’t aware of the governor’s comments and didn’t know why she had apparently changed her mind on the issue.

The issues surrounding the IRC have continued to be a concern for the governor. She believes that now is the time for the IRC members themselves to speak to some of these allegations,” Benson said.

It is unknown whether the new members of the IRC would have enough time to complete the redistricting process if one or more commissioners were removed. The U.S. Department of Justice has 60 to 90 days to approve or reject Arizona’s proposed maps, and candidates for elected office will need time to collect signatures and organize their campaigns before the May 30 filing deadline.

If the process were not finished in time, a lawsuit could force a panel of three federal judges to draw the maps themselves, as happened in 1992 with Arizona’s congressional districts.

Benson said the governor believes the maps can be redrawn, or at least altered, in time to avoid having judges draw the maps that Arizona will use for the next 10 years.

We’re not willing to concede that that’s where this has to end up. For that matter, again, we are at step one here in terms of just seeking answers from some of these members,” he said. “There’s nothing to say that a new commission would have to start from scratch.”

Benson also said the letter was not necessarily a precursor to the removal of one or more commissioners, but would not say what response or what changes to the maps would be sufficient to head off a special session. The IRC has not yet finalized the map, which is subject to change once it concludes its second round of hearings on Nov. 5.

If Brewer initiates the removal process, it is unknown whether she and the Senate would focus only on Mathis, an independent, or expand it to include the commission’s two Democrats and two Republicans.

If Mathis were ousted, Democratic Commissioners Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty and Republican Commissioners Scott Freeman and Richard Stertz would choose a new chair from a pool of three candidates selected by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments.

Brewer also submitted her official comments on the maps. In the separate letter, said the IRC did not respect communities of interest, did not create compact and contiguous districts, disregarded geographic and political boundaries, ignored the needs of rural Arizonans and elevated competitiveness above all other constitutional criteria.

She specifically objected to congressional districts that cut Yuma and Cochise counties in half, and referred to proposed Districts 1, 3 and 4 as “patently tortured and spliced.” District 9, which includes Tempe and the Arcadia, Biltmore and Ahwatukee Foothills areas of Phoenix, was drawn in violation of the IRC’s six constitutional criteria, she alleged.

I have many concerns about the draft map. The concerns are so grave that I believe the IRC has not satisfied its constitutional duty requiring it to conduct this vital electoral activity in an honest, independent and impartial fashion that upholds the public confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process,” Brewer wrote.

17 comments

  1. Voters have no reason to believe the IRC acted with the intent to engage in misconduct or take actions that would imply neglect of duty. The GOP driven allegations by themselves are also against the intent of voters who voted for an independent re-districting commission, free of political involvement. Since the appointed Commissioners were cleared and selected by the GOP and Dem, I do not understand the minutea and the Governor’s involvement. To accuse these individuals of gross misconduct is unfitting for the Governor’s office. I hope they challenge her and file charges against her for misconduct and defamation. They would be within their rights to do so. The voters are the “power” behind this Commission … not the Governor or the GOP.

  2. I thought the Commission was to take the politics out of the process. Gov is barking up the wrong tree on this.

  3. And how, in this heavily Republican state, is anyone to beLIEve the legitimacy of this article? Just wonderin’!

    Your friend,

    Warren

    Warren G. Richards
    Mesa AZ

  4. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has conducted this vital electoral activity in an honest, independent and impartial fashion that upholds the public confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process — which is exactly the opposite of what Jan Brewer said.

    Gov. Brewer, keep your hands off of our independent redistricting commission! Voters took that process out of the hands of professional politicians like you over a decade ago for a reason!

  5. Brewer and the “Party of No” won’t be satisfied until they thwart the will of the people, partisanly politicize what is supposed to be an independent effort, and gerrymander the entire state to ensure the control of rabid, right-wing extremists for the next decade. Occupy Brewer’s Office now!

  6. An entirely appropriate step by the Governor. For her to have not done it would have been an abrogation of her responsibilities to the citizens of Arizona. The whole IRC effort just stinks!

  7. Competiveness should be THE criteria. The obvious coordinated attack on the IRC has brought the process to the front. But, when did Gov Brewer get involved?
    After the proposed map limited the Republican slanted disctricts to only 5. This when by registation they are only about 33% of the electorate. Grow up and learn to actually compete. But then that is what the FEAR is all about- having to compete head to head, where they might lose.

  8. “…it is unknown whether she and the Senate would focus only on Mathis, an independent, or expand it to include the commission’s two Democrats and two Republicans.”

    Going out on a limb here… but I think the two R’s would be pretty safe.

  9. The independent left out that her husband worked for Dem’s that might be important. She is not indpendent the firm they hired did the same thing in Colorado. The governor is doing the right thing. I was a fly in a chair at a meeting some Dem’s were discusing how they were slowly getting enough people spread around to take control of the state. Were not blind Yuma has nothing in common with Fountain Hills.

  10. I am Glad to see our Governor Brewer, standing up for what is right.
    And We the people do not believe in closed doors. What has been going on in the past must stop. Donnie

  11. Az is not a racist state we just elect racists

    Stalin famously stated that is not who votes that matters but who counts the votes. Brewer has a much more subtle plan. It is not who votes that matters but where they vote! this looks an awful lot like the Texicans and their attempt to gerrimander a permanent house majority, the Hammer is still doing time on that one.

  12. “..the proposed map the commission produced has four safe GOP seats and only two solid Dem seats, with three “fair fight” districts. Of course, Republicans have been howling about the commission since long before they issued their draft map, so reality never had anything to do with these complaints.”

  13. The Independent Redistricting Commission has been conducting meetings all around the state since February of this year. Why has the Republican Governor suddenly decided that the Commission is so illegal that she and the Republican Attorney General, Tom Horne must now investigate, and castigate it and see that it is thrown out? Why? Because Jan Brewer and her advisors are afraid that by making the districts of the state fit the criteria set by the Justice Department, they will disenfranchise the major party in the state of which she and her cohorts are members. Not only is this pure nonsense, it would hardly be possible as the districts are now being drawn. We Arizonans voted for this Independent Redistricting just so these kind of shenanigans could not happen. Get angry Arizona, I am!

  14. The crying libs must have had party making up same asinine comments over and over. Simple questions, simple answers, DID leader of commission lie on application YES,Did her vote with two liberal democrat members pick mapping company employed by ODUMBO and all good Democrat national committee? Yes!! Why is there ANY accusation of illegal corrupt activities, being done to Arizona voters???? Just because the ONLY 2 things done so far are illegal and lies.

  15. Actually the whole procedure is ridiculous. When Stan Barnes calls it a “political science experiment,” he could not be more wrong. No political scientist would have set up this procedure; we get this ridiculous setups because the Legislature is unwilling to set up a rational plan and this leaves the decision to the vagaries of the popular initiative.

    Instead of a mapping company, the Commission should have brought in experts from universities in other states who have no involvement in Arizona affairs, and let them draw the maps. Politicians should have no input into the procedure as that is a blatant conflict of interest. Competitiveness should be the primary criterion. Unfortunately the Civil Rights Act gets in the way, but Tom Horne has initiated a lawsuit to try to get that obstacle removed.

    Another Stan Barnes fallacy is that handing apportionment back to the Legislature would promote “accountability.” To whom can the voter in a district complain? Obviously the member of Congress or the Legislature in that district is hardly going to be sympathetic since he or she owes their election to the existing apportionment. Do you think Pastor will care about Republican complaints in his district or will Quail concern himself about Democrats? How about Democrats in Russell Pearce’s district or Republicans in an Hispanic majority district? Accountability? No such thing.

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