When the drafters of Proposition 106 took their idea to the ballot in 2000, they knew they had to address the possibility of the state needing to remove a member of the Independent Redistricting Commission. They wrote that a commission member could be removed by the governor, with the support of two-thirds of the state Senate, for acts considered “gross misconduct” or “substantial neglect of duty.”
Thank goodness they included that in the proposition approved by Arizona voters. Because of that wording, and the overwhelming evidence that Chair Colleen Mathis committed “gross misconduct” and “substantial neglect of duty,” the governor was able to remove Ms. Mathis before she could do any more damage to our state.
We have to get past the arguments of which party benefits by which map. That’s not what this is about. To make the decision to remove a member of the IRC, we must look at their actions in office. Take the partisan blinders off and look at how Ms. Mathis committed “substantial neglect of duty.”
• She admitted meeting in violation of open-meeting laws in a pursuit “of consensus” on awarding the mapping consultant contract.
• There is evidence that Ms. Mathis fudged the scoring on the mapping consultant in order that her preferred company was chosen. One political commentator indicated that her actions resembled bid rigging.
• She failed to disclose on her application that her husband was the treasurer of Democratic candidate for the Legislature Nancy Young-Wright.
• Contrary to the Constitution, she appointed two vice-chairmen instead of one.
• Her presentation of a donut-hole map, and the instructions to the commission was a violation of the constitutional requirement that the maps work from a grid and make adjustments to that grid.
• She privately created her own congressional district map and forced a vote on that map on the same day it was introduced.
This list of her misconduct does not even include the pages of unconstitutional activities discovered during the course of the joint legislative hearings on the Independent Redistricting Commission.
We don’t even need to speculate on the partisan motivations behind all these actions. The actions themselves are more than enough to remove her.
Proposition 106 included very specific guidelines on the role of the Legislature in the redistricting process. This Legislature has followed those guidelines to the letter. Legislative leaders selected four of the five members. The Legislature reviewed the conduct and product of the commission and made comments to the IRC. Members did this by convening a joint bipartisan commission, although Democrats shirked their duty by “boycotting” meetings. The state Senate has followed the requirement to review and confirm/refuse in the case of the governor’s removal of a commissioner. Once the Senate received the governor’s call of a special session and findings outlined in her removal letter to the former IRC chair, the Senate had a duty to act.
As the weeks go on, many will discuss whether the IRC system is even the best way to draw congressional and legislative maps. But that is the system we are under right now, the governor and Legislature worked in a constitutional manner and removed a commission member for a series of unconstitutional acts.
- Andy Biggs is majority leader of the Arizona Senate.