Redistricting in Arizona

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Redistricting in Arizona
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General information
Partisan control:
Independent Redistricting Commission
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
60 (30 districts)
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures
This page is about redistricting in Arizona. Arizona is one of a handful states that uses an independent commission for its redistricting.

On December 20, 2011, the Independent Redistricting Commission approved state legislative and congressional maps in a vote along party lines.[1]

See here for actual maps comparing the new and old legislative districts.


There is an independent redistricting commission, created by Proposition 106 in 2000, that governs redistricting in Arizona. According to the site, the mission of the commission is, "to administer the fair and balanced redistricting of the Congressional and Legislative districts for the State of Arizona."[2]

The commission has 5 members. Members are selected by the following:

The fifth and final member is an independent, chosen by the first four appointees. The fifth member will also serve as the chair.

Arizona has 30 legislative districts, from which there is 1 senator and 2 representatives elected.

Proposed changes

Republican legislative leaders in December 2011 proposed that the commission ultimately be expanded from five to nine members for the 2020 redistricting. Democrats, Republicans, and independents would each have three members. Legislators proposed that a supermajority would then be required to implement the map.[3]

2012 proposals

In February 2012, Republican legislators proposed changes to both the commission makeup, and the approved maps from 2011.

Three potential measures were introduced by Speaker of the House Andy Tobin (R) relating to the redistricting maps. If approved by a majority of each chamber, two measures would be placed on a special election ballot in May, and one would be on the November 2012 general election ballot. Most notably, the measures proposed alternatives to the maps implemented by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The three measures were:

Tobin admitted that the measures would result in more Republicans being elected. But he defended this, stating that this is fair because there are more registered Republicans in the state. According to a spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State, in order for the state to hold the May special election, the legislature would need to approve Tobin's proposals by Feb. 15, which was 90 days before the election.

Critics said the measures would undermine the spirit of the Redistricting Commission, which is meant to take the power of drawing new maps out of the hands of legislators.[4]

However, in February 2012, the State Senate Government Reform Committee voted 4-2 to send to the floor a resolution that would eliminate the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. A proposal floated by Speaker of the House Andy Tobin (R) would have simply altered the composition of the commission, but that idea died in committee.[5]


After 2000 Census

The five members of the commission who served from 2001-2010 were:[6]

After 2010 Census

The five members of the commission serving from 2011-2020 are:


Commissioners were chosen from a final list of applicants. However, Republican lawmakers filed a lawsuit over the list of nominees.[7]

The first commissioner was appointed by House speaker Kirk Adams (R) on January 31, 2011. Adams named Scott Freeman, an attorney from Phoenix, to the commission.[8]

The first four appointed commissioners are sworn-in to their positions on February 24, 2011.

The second commissioner was appointed by Chad Campbell (D) on February 2, 2011. Campbell, House Minority Leader, named Phoenix resident Jose Herrera to the commission.[9] Because Herrera was the second commissioner from Maricopa County, the remaining two appointed commissioners had to be from other counties in Arizona.[10] Herrera was born in San Luis and graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2001.[11]

Senate President Russell Pearce (R) chose Richard Stertz of Tuscon as the third commission member.[12] Stertz, who runs a faith-based organization, was one of the two replacements added to the list of nominees after Pearce and Adams requested a revised batch of names. "The fact that I was able to select Mr. Stertz is also a direct result of our court challenge. This was a critical issue in law to allow real choice for the IRC. The law is clear and having real choices is critical for Arizona and the process," Pearce said.[13] Stertz was marred in some controversy because of reports that he had back-taxes still owed to Pima County. Records showed he owed $7,800 for two properties near Tucson. Stertz called the tardiness an "oversight."[14]

Rounding out the nominees was Linda McNulty, who was appointed to the commission on February 15 by Senate Minority Leader David Schapira (D). McNulty is an attorney from Tucscon.[15]

Thus, the first four members selected to the commission were:

  • Democratic Party Jose Herrera
  • Democratic Party Linda McNulty
  • Republican Party Scott Freeman
  • Republican Party Richard Stertz

The four appointees selected a fifth member to round out the commission from a pool of five independents. Those nominees were:[16]

  • Paul Bender
  • Raymond Bladine
  • Kimber Lanning
  • Margarita Silva
  • Colleen Mathis

Mathis was selected as the fifth and final member.[17]

Nominee list controversy

Of the 25 finalists for the commission, there were 16 from Maricopa County, six from Pima County, and one from Coconino, Navajo and Yuma counties. The partisan makeup was 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans and 5 independents. Once the two major parties appointed their four commissioners, those four were then to choose the final member from the list of five independents.

The final list of 25 names was subject to controversy, initially after one Commission member resigned over allegations that he was allowing religion to interfere with an application.[18] Additionally, Republican leaders demanded a new list of nominees, after allegations that Christopher Gleason was left off the final list because he was a member of a Christian group dedicated to spiritual renewal.[19] The commissioner who made the comment resigned -- Louis Araneta -- although he said the situation was a misinterpretation of the conversation.[18]

ABC News video covering the lawsuit filed by Republican legislative leaders.

The two Republican legislative leaders -- House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President Russell Pearce -- submitted a letter to Mark Schnepf (R), Steve Sossaman (R) and Paul Bender (I), asking them to withdraw their application to the committee because they were not "constitutionally-qualified."[20] Both Schnepf and Sossaman submitted resignation letters, but the nominating commission rejected those letters.[21]

The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments met on December 29, 2010 to re-examine its list of 25 finalists.[22] The screening panel did not alter the list of final applicants, which prompted a lawsuit from Republican lawmakers.[23] House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President Russell Pearce had been requesting a new list of nominees, with more citizens representing areas outside of Maricopa County.[23] The Arizona Supreme Court heard arguments for the case on January 18, 2011. Adams and Pearce were legally required to choose their commission members by the end of January 2011.[24]

Figure 1: This map shows the Arizona Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

Members of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments expressed their concern that the two top Republicans were interfering in the process. The following statements from three members of that commission voiced their disapproval with the lawsuit.

  • Dewey Schade: "If we respond to the shenanigans that have gone on, that's what undermines public confidence."[25]
  • John Leavitt: "There is no greater intrusion in the process than to have the top two Republicans intervene," he said.[25]
  • Jane Strain: "I hope the people of Arizona are watching this and looking out for the dirty rotten politics.[25]

The Court on January 18 ruled that two Republican candidates would need to be replaced. Additionally, the Court held that Bender would remain on the final list of 25 candidates.[26] The two names added to replace Schnepf and Sossaman are Crystal Russell and Richard Stertz.[27]


On April 20, 2011, the commission hired Ray Bladine to serve as executive director. Bladine, a former Phoenix administrator and deputy city manager for 11 years, was responsible for guiding the commission through the process.[28]

According to reports, Bladine would earn $100,000 per year. Bladine was chosen over Geoffrey Gonsher.[29] Bladine is a registered independent who also applied for a seat on the commission itself.[30]

The commission was allocated $500,000 in FY 2011 and $3 million in FY 2012.[31]

Legal assistance

The commission on May 12, 2011 interviewed attorneys and law firms to fill the role of legal counsel. Interviews took place in public.[32] On May 13, 2011 the commission voted 3-2 to hire two legal firms -- one Democratic and one Republican -- to assist the redistricting process. The Democratic counsel was Osborne Maledon while the Republican counsel was Ballard Spahr LLP.[33]

The vote was somewhat controversial, as the two Republican commissioners -- Richard Stertz and Scott Freeman -- voted against the hirings, arguing that the Republican counsel should have been the firm of their choice -- Gammage and Burnham.[34] "It boils down to this: The Democrats vetoed the Republicans’ selection," Freeman said of the vote.[35]

The Democratic team included Mary O'Grady, a former state solicitor general. Joe Kanefield - former state elections director and chief counsel to Governor Jan Brewer (R) - was a member of the Ballard Spahr legal team. Said commission chair Colleen Mathis on her tiebreaking vote: "We are not just Democrats and Republicans on the commission. ... We each have a vote and are each exercising that vote."[36]

Map-drawing consultant

Redistricting consultants Stan Barnes and Barry Dill discuss the attempted removal of politics from redistricting.

The Independent Redistricting Commission met on June 24, 2011 to interview four firms that applied to serve as mapping consultants. The four applicants were TerraSystems Southwest Inc., Research Advisory Services, Strategic Telemetry and National Demographics Corp. During the last redistricting process, National Demographics Corporation was the hired consultant. [37]

On June 29, 2011, the commission by a vote of 3-2 hired Strategic Telemetry to work as the mapping consultant. Colleen Mathis, commission chair, sided with the two Democratic commissioners. The Republican commissioners questioned the political leanings of Strategic Telemetry, based on its work with two past Democratic presidential candidates -- John Kerry and President Barack Obama -- as well as work with the recall campaigns against Republicans in Wisconsin. Mathis defended her decision, saying the hiring was not about politics and more about the advanced presentation that would include social media and mobile phones to gather public input.[38] A three-hour closed executive session was held prior to the vote.[39]

In August 2011, the commission decided to track all communication between Strategic Telemetry and any person outside of the commission. Commissioner Scott Freeman said the move was meant to "allay some public concerns" with respect to the consultant's previous ties to Democratic campaign efforts. Later, Democratic commissioners expressed a desire to exempt bloggers and members of the media from the new rules.[40]

Push to eliminate commission

The 2011 commission came under criticism by GOP officials in light of some of the hirings and actions by the commission. A Republican lawmaker proposed the idea that a ballot question be held to eliminate the commission and return the map-drawing process to lawmakers.[41] House representative Terri Proud (R) said the independent chair of the commission, Colleen Mathis, did not disclose that her husband worked for the unsuccessful re-election bid of a Democratic legislator. Proud also indicated she had not seen enough interest on the commission’s part to gather public input before creating draft maps.[42]

Speaker of the House Andy Tobin also criticized some decisions by the commission, notably the hiring of Strategic Telemetry as map consultant. That company had recently worked for President Barack Obama, John Kerry and the Democratic effort to recall legislators in Wisconsin.

State senator Ron Gould (R) suggested removing Mathis from the commission entirely. In order to do that, Governor Jan Brewer (R) would have had to sign a petition and then the Senate would have had to approve that petition with 2/3 vote.[43]

In response to the criticism, advocates of the commission criticized the move as a way to re-institute political gerrymandering of the districts or to intimidate the commissioners.[44] [45] Still others pointed out that the petition circulated by Proud contained factual errors -- including the year that the ballot initiative was approved.[46] While Republicans expressed concern that their voice would be "silenced" by the process, the commissioners themselves maintained that they would be responsible for drawing the districts.[47]

Attorney General investigation

Attorney General Tom Horne (R) conducts an interview with Arizona PBS regarding his investigation of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

Attorney General Tom Horne (R) launched an investigation into whether the redistricting commission violated state procurement and open meeting laws. Horne said they “don’t have any reason to believe that anything was done wrong” but his office would still investigate in order to solidify confidence in the process. Commission executive director Ray Bladine said rules were followed properly. However, State senator Frank Antenori (R) maintained he had proof that laws were broken -- including evidence that government documents subject to public records request were destroyed. [48] An investigation by the Arizona Capitol Times first detailed the possible open meeting and procurement violations. According to that report, the commission met behind closed doors for 37 hours in executive session up to late July 2011.[49]

On August 4, Attorney General Tom Horne (R) sent out a press release regarding his investigation into a possible open meetings violation by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). Horne said, “My office will be relentless in pursuing the facts, and no commissioner will succeed in attempting to hide relevant facts.” Horne’s reaction came after commissioner Jose Herrera stated he would not answer any questions from the Attorney General’s office.[50]

"For the sake of public confidence in this process and to put this matter behind us, I intend to fully answer any questions asked of me from the Attorney General's office," said Committee Chair Colleen Mathis.[51]

Chair Colleen Mathis said she would like to make all executive-session minutes public, in order to help dispel public criticism of the commission’s conduct. However, doing so would likely have violated state law, as the executive session minutes are legally meant to be kept confidential.[52]

Court hearing set

An October 3, 2011 court hearing was scheduled to hear Attorney General Tom Horne’s (R) request to compel three commissioners to cooperate with his investigation. Horne’s investigation pertained to the selection of Strategic Telemetry as mapping consultant. The two Democratic commissioners and the independent chair refused to cooperate, according to accusations from Horne’s office.[53]

In September 2011, new allegations surfaced that Colleen Mathis, chair of the Redistricting Commission, destroyed documents relating to the selection process. Horne told media outlets that Republican Commissioner Richard Stertz testified that some score sheets were destroyed. If so, Horne said that might violate open meeting and procurement laws. Ray Bladine, executive director of the commission, said no documents that should have been kept were destroyed.[54]

Unrelated to above matters, the Democratic Party filed a complaint against Stertz. The complaint requested an investigation into Stertz’s commission application and possible omissions. [55]

Andrei Cherny, Arizona Democratic Party Chairman, criticized Horne for the attack on the commission. Cherny said the allegations were another example of partisan interference with the commission’s mapping process.[56]

Impeachment of commission chair

Governor threatens to impeach

Governor Jan Brewer (R) on October 26, 2011 threatened to begin impeachment proceedings against the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission members. She sent allegations to the five commissioners and gave a deadline of October 31 for them to respond.[57] If she was not pleased, she would then initiate impeachment proceedings -- meaning with a 2/3 vote from the Senate, members could be removed from the commission. Should that have occurred, the process would have started from scratch with selection of replacements and new maps to be drawn.[58]

Brewer’s point of contention was the Congressional map. Namely, three of the chief complaints were that the commission over-prioritized competitiveness, disregarded natural borders and violated open-meeting laws.[59]

Democrats alleged the complaints were “bogus” and just an attempt by Republicans to protect their incumbents.[57]

James Huntwork, a Republican who sat on the Commission from 2001-2010, said the 2011 commission erred in its order of priorities when creating maps. He said the new commission should have first drawn maps that satisfied minority voting, equal population, and local government boundaries. Only at that point should the commission have considered competitiveness and parties. Huntwork’s comments were contrary to what a former Democratic commissioner said several months prior, when she criticized the commission for waiting too long to consider competitiveness.[60]

Chairwoman removed

On November 1, 2011, Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer (R) officially impeached Independent Redistricting Chair Colleen Mathis. With the Arizona State Senate’s 21-6 vote in favor of Brewer’s decision, the governor essentially fired Mathis from her role as the lone independent on the five-member commission. "I will not sit idly by while Arizona’s Congressional and legislative boundaries are drawn in a fashion that is anything but constitutional and proper," Brewer said.[61]

Brewer alleged that the new Congressional map did not meet Constitutional requirements. The current map favored the GOP 5-3. The new map would have given the GOP four safe districts, two for Democrats, with three competitive seats. Brewer said the law required a “grid-like” map -- which she said was put off at the expense of making more competitive districts.[62]

Democratic officials slammed the decision. "Every honest person in the state agrees that this is not about substantial neglect of duty or gross misconduct in office. It is about protecting the careers of Republican congressmen at the expense of good government and fair elections," said Andrei Cherny, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party.[63] According to her lawyer, Mathis was to legally challenge the decision. The case was likely to go before district court and the State Supreme Court.[64]

Arizona Democratic Party officials threatened to recall four Republican state senators who voted to remove Mathis. The four senators were Rich Crandall, Adam Driggs, Michele Reagan and John McComish.[65]

Experts proceeded to assume that the 2012 elections would be held on a court-drawn interim map.[66]

Court hearing

A November 17, 2011 court hearing was set for State Supreme Court hearings over whether Mathis was wrongly removed from the commission. On November 8, 2011, the court denied a request to temporarily reinstate Mathis to her post.[67]


A state nominating panel began accepting applications for a replacement for Mathis during the week of November 7, 2011. A deadline of November 15 was established for applicants. The panel had until December 1 to nominate three finalists.[68] A total of 19 applicants applied for the post. However, the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated Mathis on November 17, 2011.[69] Because Mathis was reinstated, the screening process was halted.


On November 17, 2011, the Arizona Supreme Court overruled Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer (R) and reinstated Mathis to the commission. The court held that Brewer failed to show that Mathis had engaged in any conduct to provide grounds for removal.[70]

Brewer's spokesman left open the possibility that another removal attempt could be sought.[71]

Back to work

In late November 2011, the full commission returned to its work on the final maps. On December 1, 2011, the commission began setting up times for current legislators to testify regarding proposed maps.[72]

Post-map budget issues

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission said it would run out of money by March 16, 2012 if state officials did not appropriate additional funding. A bill was passed by the Arizona State Senate to send an additional $1 to the commission.[73] Senate GOP leaders were opposed to the commission's maps. In fact, on March 1, senators advanced a measure that would eliminate the commission and return the power of drawing maps to the legislature.[74][75]

On March 8, 2012, the commission's executive director Ray Bladine said the commission would file a lawsuit over the state's failure to approve additional funding. Bladine said the commission would run out of money by the end of the month without a supplemental appropriation. The commission cited unanticipated legal expenses as the cause of the early draining of its budget.[76]

On March 21, 2012, the Arizona State Senate approved an additional $700,000 appropriation to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The Senate voted 18-9 to approve the measure which had been sent to its chamber by the House. The commission had sought for an extra $1.1 million.[77][78]

On March 27, 2012, Governor Jan Brewer (R) signed legislation to provide an additional $700,000 to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. While the commission asked for $1.1 million, executive director Ray Bladine said the approved sum was enough to avoid a possible lawsuit for more funding.[79][80]

Census Results

Explanation of the redistricting process in Arizona.

Based on the new Congressional apportionment, Arizona was awarded an additional seat based on population growth,[81] giving the state 9 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The new district was likely to be in either Maricopa or Pinal counties, where the growth was concentrated over the past decade.[82]

In October 2010, there were 1 million registered Democrats and 1.1 million Republicans in Arizona.[83]

Arizona received its local census results on March 9, 2011.[84] Although the state grew by almost 25 percent -- second in the nation to Nevada's 35 percent -- some population areas did not meet growth expectations. One theory was that the recession and hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants fleeing the state may have offset even greater population gains. The state fell 270,000 residents short of predictions.[85]

Overall, the population figures showed large growth in Arizona's Hispanic population. The white population fell from 65.1 percent to 59.4 percent, while the Hispanic population grew from 25 percent to 30 percent.[86] Across the state, the suburbs grew faster than major cities. Based on initial estimates, that would result in higher representation in the state legislature for Maricopa and Pinal counties. Conversely, Pima County displayed slower growth, which threatened a loss of some state legislative clout.[87]

Top 10 Ranking

According to a report in the Washington Post, Arizona was one of the top 10 states to watch in the redistricting process. The reporters ranked Arizona number 5 on the list. Florida was given the distinction as the number 1 state to watch.[88]

Congressional Maps

Navajo, Hopi tribes

In Arizona, the Navajo and Hopi Indians have more than 2 million acres of land in northeastern Arizona.[89] During the 2000 redistricting, the two tribes were feuding and requested being placed in separate Congressional districts, despite their close physical proximity. The Navajos were put in the 1st Congressional district and the Hopis were placed in the 2nd Congressional district. For the 2011 redistricting process, there was momentum to recombine the two tribes into one district, according to Navajo president Ben Shelly.[89]

Native American tribal groups testified to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in mid-September 2011 about the drawing of Congressional districts. Historically, the relationship between Hopi and Navajo tribes had been contentious -- but in 2011, the tribes signaled a willingness to be drawn into the same district in order to have more collective unity on common issues. Additionally, the tribes expressed a desire that the district be drawn so that it would provide a greater likelihood for a Native American to be elected to Congress.[90][91]


Arizona's 2nd Congressional district was featured in a Slate publication titled, "The Most Gerrymandered Congressional Districts." There were 20 districts featured from across the country.[92]

Congressional draft map passed

The draft Congressional map as passed on October 3, 2011.

On October 3, 2011, the Commission passed a draft Congressional map by a vote of 3-1, with one Republican abstaining and one voting against.

The newly-created 9th Congressional district was considered to lean Democrat, based on early analysis of the draft map.[93]

After it was passed, the draft Congressional map came under assault by GOP leaders from all fronts.[94]

  • U.S. Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain released a joint statement that called the process political and requested that maps be corrected.
  • Governor Jan Brewer (R) criticized the map, saying it favored Democrats. Brewer said, "The IRC proposal is simply gerrymandering at its worst."[95]
  • U.S. House Representative Trent Franks (R) said the "obviously biased map is unacceptable."[96]

According to Stuart Rothenberg, author of a nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, the Congressional map allowed Democrats to "screw" Republicans.

Meanwhile, Andrei Cherny, Arizona Democratic Party chairman, accused the GOP of unveiling a coordinated attack on the redistricting commission. Cherny said there were currently four safe GOP districts, two safe Democratic districts, and two competitive districts. He said the new map would still have four safe GOP seats, two safe Democratic seats, and now have three competitive districts.[97]

The plan appeared to place two Republican Congressmen -- David Schweikert and Ben Quayle -- in one district where they would face each other in a primary.[98]

According to the Phoenix Business Journal, the breakdown of the nine districts is:[96]

  • District 1: Competitive district
  • District 2: Leans Democratic
  • District 3: Leans Democratic
  • District 4: Leans Republican
  • District 5: Leans Republican

  • District 6: Leans Republican
  • District 7: Leans Democratic
  • District 8: Leans Republican
  • District 9: Competitive district

Members of the public had 30 days to comment on the draft Congressional map.

On October 13, the commission returned to Flagstaff to gather input from citizens on the draft Congressional map.[99]

Possible changes

In November 2011, the commission returned to work following the temporary removal of Colleen Mathis as chair. Commissioner Richard Stertz (R) preferred to start the map from scratch, arguing that Mathis drew most of the map in secret.[100]


On April 9, 2012, the Department of Justice gave pre-clearance to the new congressional map.[101]

Legislative Maps

More districts?

The breakdown of Arizona's representation at the time of redistricting was 30 state senators and 60 state house representatives. Each representative would have 106,534 constituents -- the 8th highest population per house district in the country. A blogger in Arizona suggested that the redistricting commission increase the total number of districts.[102] Legally, the redistricting commission is allowed to grow the size of the legislature, based on language from Proposition 106.

Prescott Council opposition

In August 2011, the Prescott City Council voted unanimously to send a letter to the Independent Redistricting Commission to relay the council's disapproval with the early legislative maps. Draft options would divide Yavapai County into four districts. According to the letter, this would weaken the county's core values. [103]

Draft maps passed

The draft State legislative map as passed on October 10, 2011.

One week after the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission approved a draft Congressional map, the five members voted 4-1 in favor of a draft state legislative map.[104]

In a twist from the previous week’s reaction, this time it was the Democratic Party that felt slighted by the draft map. After a week full of GOP leaders decrying the Congressional map, Democratic leaders cried foul about the 30 state districts.[104]

Based on initial analysis, Republicans would have a voter registration edge in 18 of the 30 districts. Additionally, only 3 to 8 districts would be considered competitive.[104]

Luis Heredia, Executive Director of the Arizona Democratic Party, said the commission should have created more districts that are competitive.[105]

The new districts created several instances where incumbents were thrown into the same district. Notably, State Senate President Russell Pearce (R) would be in the same district as State Senator Rich Crandall (R). Pearce -- who was removed in a recall election on November 8 against fellow Republican Jerry Lewis -- has said he intended to run again in 2012.[106]

A 30-day comment period began on October 11, 2011. A total of 26 hearings were held.[107] Among the initial public reaction:

  • Some Flagstaff residents want to be moved into District 6 as opposed to being in District 7 -- which is shared with the Navajo Nation.[108]

Partisan discontent

Both Democrats and Republicans continued to express their disapproval of the legislative draft map.[109] The state legislature announced it was forming a special committee to make recommendations to the Arizona Independent Redistricting commission. The bipartisan legislative committee met on October 21, 2011 for the first time.[110] While the six-member committee included two Democrats and 4 Republicans, legislative Democrats boycotted the new meeting. House Minority Leader Chad Campbell and Senate Minority Leader David Schapira said the committee was simply a scheme to protect incumbents’ seats and undermine the Independent Commission.[111]

Approved maps

On December 20, 2011, the Independent Redistricting Commission voted 3-2 to approve new state legislative and congressional maps. The new congressional map created four Republican-leaning districts, two Democratic-leaning districts and three competitive districts. The state legislative map contained 16 districts deemed safe for Republicans, 10 safe for Democrats and four considered competitive. The two Republican commissioners voted against the new maps. [112]

One of the contentious final discussion points centered around the number of congressional districts along the Mexico border. The final map had two border districts. Early versions of the map contained three border districts.[113]

As expected, some officials expressed their dismay at the new maps. State legislator Olivia Cajero Bedford (D) immediately announced she would move in order to seek election in a different district, after hers was made more Republican-leaning in the new map.[114]

 Redistricting Maps, approved December 2011 

Final approval

The Independent Redistricting Commission met on January 13, 2012 to discuss minor, technical changes to the state legislative and congressional maps.[115]

The final maps were approved and sent to the Department of Justice on January 17, 2012. The final vote was 3-2, with chairwoman Mathis voting in the affirmative alongside the two Democratic chairpersons.[116]

On April 26, 2012, the Department of Justice signed off on the new maps.[117]

Draft maps

Options 1 and 2

On August 12, 2011, the redistricting commission released a first set of Congressional and legislative maps. The initial draft only addressed two of the six required criteria -- equal population and contiguity.[118] The first maps contained two Congressional options and two legislative options.[119] The draft maps can be found here.

 Redistricting Draft Maps, released August 2011 

Starting point chosen

On August 18, 2011, the AIRC chose option 2 as a starting point. This version focused on a more rural-based approach to the map. Proponents of option 2 said it was preferred in part because at random it created more compact districts.[120] The commission vote was 4-1, with commissioner Jose Herrera dissenting over concerns about the congressional districts along the U.S.-Mexico border.[121]

Public Meetings

Testimony in August 2011 to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

Commission meetings

February 24, 2011

The first redistricting meeting took place on February 24, 2011 in Phoenix.[122] The purpose of the meeting was to interview applicants for the fifth and final member of the commission, who would be an independent.[123] During this meeting, the four commissioners were sworn-in.[124]

They then interviewed the five independent candidates for 30 minutes each. The commission chose to delay voting on its fifth member until March 1.[125]

March 24, 2011

On March 24, 2011 the five-member commission held a meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. The posted agenda included an introduction of the interim executive director of the commission, as well as discussing RFPs for consultants.[126]

April 8, 2011

An agenda was posted for a meeting on April 8, 2011. The new website was created, and staff hiring as well as a timeline were to be discussed at the meeting.[127]

Statewide input meetings

On August 17, 2011, the AIRC met with former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The retired judge praised the system Arizona uses and encouraged fair redistricting. From left to right in the photo: Richard Stertz, Colleen Mathis, Scott Freeman, Justice O'Connor, Jose Herrera, and Linda McNulty

A total of 15 meetings were to be held in 24 locations across the state throughout July and August 2011.[128] A list of the meetings is available here.

  • Throughout the course of public hearings, residents also stressed a desire to see more competitive legislative and congressional districts.
  • In a scheduling snafu on August 1, more than 100 residents in northern Arizona attended a public input hearing in Flagstaff -- only to find that no actual commissioners were present. The commissioners had accidentally mixed up which ones were going to attend. However, commissioner Herrera was able to attend virtually using Skype. About three dozen residents testified at the meeting, with most specifying that they preferred maintaining communities of interest in the maps.[129]
  • At a public hearing on August 6, state senator Al Melvin (R) said he would like to see his district remain unchanged as much as possible.[130]

Legal issues

Voting Rights Act challenge

On August 25, 2011, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the federal government that challenged portions of the Voting Rights Act. Attorney General Tom Horne said the state is subject to a "tortuous" procedure and approval process conducted by the Department of Justice. Horne said that Arizona demonstrated that the state is fair to racial minority voters and should no longer be subject to preclearance.[131] The lawsuit requested a hearing before a three-judge panel. According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the DOJ would defend the Voting Rights Act. "The provisions challenged in this case, including the preclearance requirement, were reauthorized by Congress in 2006 with overwhelming and bipartisan support," Holder wrote in an email to the Arizona Republic.[132]

Challenge to implemented maps

After a contentious map-drawing process in Arizona was seemingly ended with the approval of maps by the Department of Justice, it looked like drama would be returning.[133] Two lawsuits were filed in April against the new congressional and state legislative maps. Both lawsuits said the state’s independent redistricting commission violated constitutional requirements on processes and criteria for drawing maps. The suit challenging the legislative district alleged that it unconstitutionally packed Republicans into certain districts, providing an advantage to Democrats in other districts.[134]

Congressional map

On June 7, 2012, Republicans filed a lawsuit in US District Court, asking that the congressional map approved by the redistricting commission be prohibited after the 2012 elections. The lawsuit contended that the voter approved law, which allows a commission rather than the legislature to draw congressional districts, violates the Constitution. Speaker of the House Andy Tobin (R) stated, "Today, the Legislature is asking the federal courts to bring the constitutional redistricting process back to Arizona's elected representatives."[135]

U.S. District Judge Paul Rosenblatt granted a motion to create a three-judge panel to hear the case. Rosenblatt would also serve on the commission. The two other members were to be appointed by the chief judge of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.[136]

The case got underway on August 22. Lawyers for the Republicans-backed lawsuit argued it should proceed as the redistricting commission violated requirements that were put in place to protect voters. Lawyers for the redistricting commission, meanwhile, sought to have the suit dismissed, arguing the allegations were unfounded.[137]

On October 16, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain dismissed parts of the lawsuit, but said it could continue and gave plaintiffs until November 9 to file a new complaint.[138]

Brain stated that the suit could continue on the following three original arguments:[138]

  • The commission "abandoned" the initial grid-like map once it started to make adjustments per state Constitution requirements.
  • The commission did not take into consideration suggestions by the Legislature.
  • Commissioners may have violated the state's open meeting law when drawing up what eventually became Congressional District 9.

The complaints dismissed included arguments that the commission failed to advertise a proper congressional map and that it violated Open Meeting Law when discussing hiring potential mapping firms.[138]

Citizen Activism

Competitive districts

Andrei Cherny, Arizona Democratic Party Chairman, discusses the census results and how they will impact redistricting.

Arizona's 30 legislative districts were also criticized as being overly partisan in one party's favor.[139] Because of requirements for majority-minority districts, a former commission member said only 7 of the 30 legislative districts are actually "competitive."[140] Two former state legislators -- Ken Clark and Roberta Voss -- said only 6 of the 30 districts were competitive. They believed that at least 10 of the 30 districts could be made competitive through the redistricting process. Clark and Voss were co-chairs of the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition, which sponsored a public contest to draw the best, most competitive legal map.[141] The coalition described competitive districts as those having a difference of 7 percent or less between registered Democrats and Republicans. In September, the coalition was to submit a collection of publicly drawn maps to the redistricting commission.[142]

Public contest

A public contest was held from May 1 through June 6.[143] The contest was geared to garner citizen submissions of Congressional and legislative districts, using an online tool. The Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition organized the competition. The winning maps would be presented to the redistricting commission later in the summer.[144] The competition allowed users to determine whether their map meets four of the six constitutional requirements -- equal in population, compact, competitive, and Voting Rights Act-compliant. The other two requirements -- keeping communities of interest together and geographic boundaries -- were deemed too subjective for the contest.[145]

Rural representation

Some rural communities were concerned that the redistricting commission would place greater emphasis on urban locations and dilute rural districts. In particular, some residents criticized the commission's geographic makeup -- as all five members were from Pima or Maricopa counties. There are 15 total counties in Arizona. A group known as the Greater Arizona Success was formed to request that rural communities get equal representation -- both in legislative and congressional maps.[146]

Partisan Registration by District

Below are the partisan registration figures by Congressional district.

Congressional Districts in November 2010 [147]

Partisan Registration and Representation by Congressional District, 2010
Congressional District Democrats Republicans Unaffiliated District Total Party Advantage* 111th Congress 112th Congress
1 152,320 134,249 117,015 403,584 13.46% Democratic
2 138,209 208,769 168,628 515,606 51.05% Republican
3 105,648 155,381 120,727 381,756 47.07% Republican
4 99,022 39,308 78,038 216,368 151.91% Democratic
5 105,138 144,798 124,395 374,331 37.72% Republican
6 118,367 213,522 162,642 494,531 80.39% Republican
7 144,119 76,730 111,883 332,732 87.83% Democratic
8 140,114 159,045 128,351 427,510 13.51% Republican
State Totals 1,002,937 1,131,802 1,011,679 3,146,418 12.85% Republican 5 D, 3 R 3 D, 5 R
*The partisan registration advantage was computed as the gap between the two major parties in registered voters.


The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was formed after voters approved Proposition 106 in 2000. The Independent Commission began its work shortly after the 2000 Census. Prior to the approval of Proposition 106, the Arizona Legislature was responsible for redistricting.

The initial redistricting plan after the 2000 census was mired in controversy through the decade. The 2002 elections were governed by an interim map while a revised version was used in 2004, as the redistricting process was held up in legal challenges.[148]

The five members of the commission in 2001 were:[149]

2001 redistricting

Arizona headed into 2001 redistricting with a Republican Governor, a divided House, and a two-to-one GOP edge in the state's Senate. Both U.S. Senators and all but one of six Congressmen belonged to the Republican party. When the 2000 Census announced the state would gain not one but two additional seats in the U.S. House, Arizona became a compelling state to watch. Despite GOP dominance, Arizona's redistricting is the domain of a nonpartisan commission and the state had already been trending to left in recent years when the 2000 results were publicized.

2001 was also the inaugural run for Proposition 106, a Common Cause and League of Women Voters sponsored ballot initiative that passed 56% to 44% in November 2000. Proposition 106 requires an independent citizen commission to draw more compact districts. Shortly after the 2001 new year, the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments had whittled 311 applicants for the commission down to 25 finalists. Within a month of a panel being seated, Hispanics demanded the resignation of all five members, irate that the entire commission was white. In a compromise, two Hispanic staffers were named and the commission was able to begin crunching through data and maps. The first draft, which drew reasonably compact Districts and gave minorities control of 25% of the Congressional seats and one-third of the state legislative districts, still drew marked criticism from Democrats.

Indeed, Arizona Democrats began building a legal team and publicly speaking of a potential lawsuit during the summer of 2001, before the Commission had actually completed its work.[150] When Democrats developed a plan for a Congressional District that would wind through parts of Maricopa County, Republicans and Hispanics found themselves on the same side, fighting the 'downtown' district that planned to take sections of the cities of Tempe, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Glendale. Democrats accused their opposite number of feigning concern for minorities while GOP lawmakers insisted the Department of Justice would never approve the proposed Maricopa District anyway.

The final plan, approved 4-1 on October 13, 2001, generally pleased Republicans more than Democrats, despite increasing the number of minority-majority seats. At the end of a decade of being outpaced by more northern areas, Tuscon lost representation at the state level to Maricopa County. Minorities generally did well but Democrats, particularly those who had backed Prop 106 so strongly, described profound frustration with the outcome, arguing their rival party had more safe seats in both legislative chambers. Criticism aside, on November 5, 2001, the Commission signed-off on the maps, clearing the way for the Department of Justice to take them up. However, six weeks later, the maps still sat in Arizona as Democrats made it increasingly clear they were planning legal action. Given that the Justice Department has 60 days from whenever they receive the maps, some commentators worried over Arizona's ability to have set boundaries in time for the 2002 elections.[151]

The maps were finally sent off to Washington at the end of January 2002. After a month, the Justice Department requested additional details and information. While the Commission was able to sort out the problem, the Justice Department's 60-day window started fresh in early March. Nearly two months passed before it become clear that Election Data Services, hired to consult on the map making, had spoiled data by missing active and inactive voters. Faced with the possibility that all the legislative districts could fail to meet the state Constitution's competitiveness requirement, Arizona considered appealing to a Federal judge to secure approval on an interim map. The Department of Justice had preliminarily approved the Congressional maps only when the mistake surfaced.

In early May 2002, the Commission bowed to political reality and sought a ruling for interim boundaries. At the same time, a lawsuit challenging district boundaries in Maricopa County was postponed until January 2003, a temporary victory for the GOP and one hurdle cleared in using an interim map for the 2002 midterms. A three-member panel of Federal judges reviewed proposed maps for interim use. The Commission submitted its work while the Navajo Nation drew its own map and built a coalition with Hispanics to challenged the official set of boundaries. The month's end brought bad news; the Department of Justice rejected the Commission's map, citing five House seats in particular. The Federal judges followed and gave the Commission only days to rework the divisions among seats.

It would be February 10, 2003 before the Commission finally received notice they had Justice Department approval. By then the Democrats' court case over competitiveness in Maricopa County had been delayed once more, until July 2003. When the case was heard, the Maricopa County Superior Court's ruling wound up in front of the Arizona Court of Appeals, who ordered the Commission to release certain documents to Democrats. Ultimately, a U.S. District Court would send the case back to Maricopa County. Facing the magnitude of the lawsuit, the Commission requested $4.2 million in help for legal bills and received, on a near unanimous vote from the legislature, $1.7 million.

In early 2004, Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County overturned the Commission's map, agreeing with Democrats that it was inadequately competitive to pass Constitutional muster. Judge Fields ordered all 30 legislative districts redrawn and banned the 2000 map from being used anywhere in the 2004 elections. Realizing the Commission would take 45 days to rework maps and that Justice Department would have, and likely use all of, 90 days, candidates contemplated having a three-month campaign season when they finally knew what districts would look like. At the start of a Presidential election year, Arizona's political hopeful were at a baffled standstill.

Dutifully, the Commission drew another map which, in January 2004, Judge Fields rejected. The Commission simultaneously appealed that ruling and prepared yet another map. On April 14, 2004, Judge Fields accepted the third effort, ordering the map to be used in 2004 and for the rest of decade. Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer said the Judge's delay in ruling did not give her enough time to run the 2004 elections on the new map and sought a ruling to allow the old maps to be used that fall Anticipating Sec. Brewer, a coalition of mainly Hispanic Democrats sued, seeking a ruling ordering Field's April 2004 map be used. At the end of May 2004, Federal Judge Rosalyn Silvers threw out the Democratic lawsuit. Halfway into the decade, Arizona had a map.[152]

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[153]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 3.79%
State Senate Districts 3.79%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Ballot measures

The following measures have appeared on the Arizona ballot pertaining to redistricting.


A possible repeal of Proposition 106 turned more bleak on November 29, 2011, as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer refused to call a special session of Arizona Legislature to discuss a proposal to place the repeal on the 2012 ballot.

According to Brewer, the governor did not want to be rushed into that situation, and also stated that she has seen "no evidence" that voters are ready to repeal the measure, which would dissolve the Independent Redistricting Commission.[154]

Constitutional explanation

With respect to redistricting, the Arizona Constitution provides authority to an independent redistricting commission in Section 1, Part 2 of Article IV.

See also

External links


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