New IRC chair wants to avoid tiebreaker role

Dillon Rosenblatt//January 21, 2021

New IRC chair wants to avoid tiebreaker role

Dillon Rosenblatt//January 21, 2021

Arizona on the map
Arizona on the map

Erika Neuberg will be the chair of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and serve as a tie-breaking vote on decisions that will impact the state’s political landscape over the next decade.

The commission voted for her unanimously and nobody else received a motion to be selected.

“I’m deeply honored by this selection and I truly view this as a collective vote of confidence in the legitimacy and independence of our process by all parties involved,” Neuberg said after taking her oath of office. “I have the greatest belief Republicans, Democrats and independents will be very fairly represented and will have a voice in this process.”

Neuberg, a psychologist who is a former national board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said in her interview with the four other commission members on January 14 that she wants to avoid being a tie breaking vote, which has been common in the two previous cycles of the commission showing its partisan nature.

Erika Neuberg
Erika Neuberg


Neuberg joins Democrats Shereen Lerner, from Maricopa County, and Derrick Watchman, from Apache County, and Republicans David Mehl, from Pima County, and Douglas York, from Maricopa County, who were selected by the legislative caucus leaders in 2020.

Watchman was unanimously selected as the vice chair.

The partisan members immediately began in their unpaid roles last week at a deadlock while trying to pick an interim chair to conduct the first meeting. The Democrats eventually gave in and selected Mehl to serve on an interim basis until Neuberg was selected. But the deliberation on January 21 only had unanimous votes.

“If I’m your chair, some 3-2 votes might be necessary, but if it’s always 3-2 — and especially if it’s always in one direction, that’s a warning sign. So, my success would be a robust majority,” Neuberg said in her interview.

Out of the five politically independent finalists, Neuberg was viewed as the most political, but not partisan, based on her strong connections she has made through her role at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which promotes a pro-Israel policy agenda. She has contributed to the campaigns of dozens of U.S. Senate and congressional candidates from both major parties and touted her relationship with Republican Gov. Doug Ducey through his connection to the pro-Israel organization as well. She said Ducey used to be an American Israel Public Affairs Committee club member.

Neuberg said she has since broken away from the committee after she decided to apply for the Independent Redistricting Commission last year.

She was one of four independent finalists the Arizona Democratic Party had a problem with given her political contributions to Ducey and other Republicans, but the party left out her contributions to Democrats, including several from Arizona.

Neuberg brushed off their complaints as part of the process and quipped about how “the other side” also had problems with her.

“If you study my history, I’ve never done the quantitative analysis. I don’t know if I’ve given more to one party or not. Every check is with an explicit motivation to advance the U.S. Israel relationship,” she said.

Neuberg said she views herself as “politically agnostic” and sees the division in today’s political climate as “what is not right about our country.”

For how she will handle the role as the chair — which is viewed as the most important political figure in the state as the commission draws maps for Arizona’s 30 legislative districts and the eventual 10 congressional districts — Neuberg said it’s important that “minorities must have representation.”

There are six factors in the state Constitution that the IRC must consider for districts:

  • Being in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
  • Ensuring all districts are roughly equal in population.
  • Appearing compact and contiguous
  • Respecting communities of interest.
  • Incorporating visible geographic features.
  • Being electorally competitive as long as the aforementioned criteria are satisfied.

Neuberg said the first four are the most important and following them in that level of importance will help with the commission’s success. That was something she felt lacked in the 2011 IRC.

“I believe the last commission went into this with the purest of motives and worked super hard. I think they got a little tripped up on this distinction because I think they prioritized competitive districts,” Neuberg said. “When you start messing with the Constitution, or your interpretation of it, it creates other problems. So I think they did a good job maybe creating a few competitive districts, but it certainly came at the expense of some of those other principles.”

Neuberg said she hopes the five commissioners can trust each other, create fair maps and that the process will not get litigious.

The IRC will next meet on February 2 at 9 a.m. to discuss training, the process to select an executive director and discussions regarding mapping consultants and legal counsel. This commission is ahead of schedule since the new census data won’t be available until the end of February, allowing the members to focus on hiring key positions in the meantime.

Neuberg beat independent nominees Robert Wilson, Thomas Loquvam, Gregory Teesdale and Megan Carollo with her appointment.