The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT – There was standing room only at the Yavapai County Supervisors’ meeting rooms in Prescott and Cottonwood as the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) held its first northern Arizona public forum to gather input on how new congressional and legislative district boundaries should be drawn.
The process of creating a new map for the 2012 election starts in a very regimented fashion: Every district must comply with existing law, and it must have essentially equal population. Districts should be “compact and contiguous,” keep together “communities of interest,” be drawn along geographic lines and city boundaries, and create competitive districts.
The redistricting is necessary because the state’s population has grown enough in the past decade to require a ninth congressional district.
Arizona, unlike some other states, starts from scratch when it redraws district maps. The state is divided into a grid and new boundaries are designed without regard to the old ones.
The AIRC is still a relatively new idea, having been introduced after the 2000 election, when voters passed Proposition 106. The commission includes two Democrats, two Republicans, and an independent chairperson. Colleen Mathis, the chair, and Scott Freeman, the vice-chair, were present at the Prescott supervisors’ meeting room for Thursday night’s forum.
Residents who found it more convenient to attend at the Cottonwood meeting site were tied by video link to the Prescott location so everyone could see and hear everyone else.
Also in attendance: three Yavapai County Sheriff’s Deputies, who Mathis said were there because they were told it was a wise precaution.
Dozens of people stepped up to the microphone to offer opinions on how the maps should be drawn.
Mike Siavelis of Prescott Valley said competitive districts were important. “I would like to see everybody have to compete to win their election,” he said.
“I don’t like seeing people with sweetheart deals, where they don’t even have to put a sign out to win,” he concluded, to a smattering of applause.
Joyce Staveley of Flagstaff traveled to Prescott to express her concern that rural counties have more in common with each other than with metropolitan areas and should be kept together.
“While competitive districts should be favored, this is not the only criteria,” she said, and emphasized that communities of interest should take priority.
Other speakers echoed their support for the “communities of interest” criteria. One idea floated was to keep counties within individual districts to keep their interests protected.
The AIRC will take the public input, create a draft map, and then solicit opinions on it.
The final map must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval.
You can learn more or submit your opinion at www.azredistricting.org.