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Public must demand competitive districts, scrutinize new maps

It’s been a quiet summer at the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, punctuated by some predictable partisan posturing.

But now we are seeing the early outlines of maps, even before the draft maps are released. The commission is in the stage of the process where it is considering “what if” ideas about what the first draft maps will look like.

Whatever happens in the next two weeks will directly influence the shape the final maps. The first draft maps will set the agenda. They will be the benchmark from which all parties will engage in the tough debates.

This is where the public must gear up and get engaged in two major ways:

Demand competition early in the process!

Ten years ago, the commission waited until the very end of the process to consider competition, which resulted in fewer competitive districts and more partisanship.

We can’t make that mistake again. We are asking you to attend upcoming commission hearings and request that the commission prioritize competitive districts at the beginning of the process using objective measurement tools. This allows all of us to scrutinize whether each district is competitive.

Partisan activists are claiming that we have had competitive districts during the past decade “because they changed hands between the political parties” in 2006 and 2010. This is a last-ditch argument to maintain the status quo.

The definition of competition is simple: the registration percentage between both parties must be close enough so that the district could change hands in any given election — not only during political tidal waves, as there were in 2006 and 2010.

Scrutinize every map!

The commission has provided a free online mapping tool for your use.

This is where your power lies. The online mapping tool will show you the data behind the maps: Are they competitive? Are they compact? Do they protect voting rights? Are partisans or incumbents playing games with the districts?

As maps are created, they are put online at the commission’s website for you to analyze.

Thanks to new technology, you have an unprecedented amount of power to make competitive districts, protect voting rights and scrutinize what the politicians don’t want you to scrutinize — their power.

Please don’t miss this opportunity.

— Ken Clark, co-chair of the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition, is a former Democratic state representative. Roberta Voss, co-chair of the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition, is a former Republican state representative. Barbara Klein is president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona.

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