The Governor’s Office announced that there will not be a special session on redistricting Tuesday.
Republican lawmakers from both chambers had been told to plan on being at the Capitol on Tuesday, and many assumed that Brewer would call a special session to remove Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Chairwoman Colleen Mathis.
The announcement that Brewer – who is out of town for the week preparing for the release of her book, “Scorpions for Breakfast” – would not issue the expected call put at least a temporary halt to talk of ousting Mathis and perhaps other members of the commission. Brewer needs the support of 20 of the 21 Senate Republicans to remove a commissioner, and at least one will be out of town after Tuesday. Democrats are expected to oppose any attempt to remove a commissioner.
Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said the governor hasn’t ruled out a special session, but wouldn’t say if or when she would issue the call.
“She hasn’t decided on anything yet. We haven’t announced anything yet,” Benson said. “She has many options at her disposal.”
Republican lawmakers are still expected at the Capitol on Tuesday to vote on a memorial detailing myriad accusations against the IRC. The four Republican members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting voted unanimously on Monday to forward its report to the full Legislature. The committee’s two Democrats have boycotted the panel.
Several lawmakers said they had been told to prepare for a possible special session on Tuesday to address both the memorial and Mathis’ removal.
Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, confirmed that House Republicans received an email today from Majority Whip Debbie Lesko “giving us the heads-up that we might be looking at 1 p.m. [Tuesday]” for a special session. The email to House members said that House Speaker Andy Tobin was still talking to the Senate and the Governor’s Office, but Robson added that legislators had previously been asked about their availability this week.
Rep. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, also said he got an email from Lesko saying “we’ll most likely go into session to vote on a memorial” tomorrow. He said the email didn’t say anything about removing any of the commissioners, though the House has no role in the removal of IRC members anyway.
Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs, a member of the joint committee examining the IRC, said he received an email from Senate Republican Chief of Staff Wendy Baldo telling him to plan on being at the Capitol at 1:30 p.m. He said the email didn’t mention whether Brewer would call a special session, though he presumed that she would, due to her recent letter to the commissioners.
Expectations for a special session were high after Brewer wrote an Oct. 26 letter to the five commissioners demanding answers to a handful of allegations of “neglect of duty” and “gross misconduct in office.” Brewer set the deadline for their responses at 8 a.m. Monday. IRC attorney Mary O’Grady wrote a collective response for the commission, and all five commissioners responded individually, as well.
Under the Arizona Constitution, the letter is the first step required before the governor and Senate can remove a commissioner.
Biggs said he would prefer a special session to pass the committee’s memorial, but didn’t believe it was necessary. The 43-page report alleges that:
- The commission did not comply with requirements in the Voting Rights Act because it did not compile or analyze racial voting patterns.
- The commission did not draw legislative districts that had roughly equal population. The report said the proposed legislative map has a 5.6 percent population deviation between districts.
- Several congressional and legislative districts violate the constitutional requirement that districts be compact and contiguous.
- Several congressional and legislative districts violate the constitutional requirement that the IRC respect communities of interest.
- The commission did not use visible geographic and political boundaries in drawing the maps, as the Arizona Constitution requires.
- The commission put much emphasis on competitiveness while ignoring other constitutional criteria, and ultimately drew a congressional map that is less competitive than current one.
- The commission improperly considered the residences of incumbents and candidates, which is prohibited by the Arizona Constitution.
- The commission improperly considered voter registration and history during the first round of mapping, which would be a violation of the Arizona Constitution. However, Arizona Supreme Court case law from the first IRC clearly states that the first round of mapping is the phase in which the commission draws a “grid map” based only on equal population, not the round in which it adjusts the grid map for the other constitutional criteria. House GOP counsel Peter Gentala said that constitutional requirement should be applied because the IRC abandoned its grid map.
– Luige del Puerto contributed to this story