138 apply for redistricting commission, including some notable names
One hundred thirty-eight people applied to serve on the next Independent Redistricting Commission, which will determine the boundaries of Arizona's congressional and legislative districts for the next decade.
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments received applications from 55 Democrats and 44 Republicans, 38 independents and 1 Libertarian.
Because no more than 2 commissioners can be from the same political party, the pool of independents, along with the Libertarian, will provide the pool of candidates to serve as the all-important chair of the redistricting commission who acts as a tiebreaker if the Democratic and Republican members are deadlocked.
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments must winnow the list down to 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans and 5 independents or others. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the state House of Representatives and Senate will each select one commissioner, and those four will select a fifth commissioner to serve as chairman.
The Arizona Constitution requires geographic diversity among the commissioners, and no more than 2 of the first four selected can reside in the same county. There are 89 applicants from Maricopa County and 28 from Pima County, along with 8 from Coconino County and 3 from Pinal and Yavapai counties. No other county has more than two applicants. No residents of Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Navajo, Santa Cruz and Yuma counties applied.
The total number of applicants for the IRC increased from 2010, when only 79 people sought seats on the redistricting commission. In 2000, the first year Arizona used an independent commission for redistricting, 311 people applied.
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will meet on Sept. 17 to review applications and take public testimony on the candidates. People can also submit public comments regarding the applicants via email at email@example.com, or by mailing them to the commission's offices. Comments cannot be submitted anonymously.
By early January, the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will narrow the list of applicants down to 25 people.
A number of notable people applied to serve on the redistricting commission. Among them are:
The most contentious part of the selection process is likely to be the vetting of the independent candidates and the selection of the chair, a pivotal decision that could allow the Democrats or Republicans to seize effective control of the redistricting commission.
In 2011, the four commissioners appointed by legislative leaders chose Colleen Coyle Mathis, an independent from Tucson, to serve as IRC chair. Partisan disagreements quickly emerged as Mathis sided with the commission's two Democrats and against the two Republicans in votes to select the IRC's attorneys and mapping consultant. Those disagreements intensified as the commission began drawing congressional and legislative boundaries.
GOP senators and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer impeached Mathis in November 2011, accusing her of a host of improprieties. The Arizona Supreme Court reinstated Mathis later that month, and the commission approved its final congressional map on a 3-2 vote, with the chairwoman again siding with her Democratic colleagues.
The commission later passed its legislative map on a bipartisan 3-2 vote in which Democratic Commissioner Jose Herrera voted against the maps, which he said didn't have enough competitive districts, while Republican Scott Freeman, at Mathis's urging, voted in favor of the maps to end the debate.
Republicans filed lawsuits challenging the IRC's congressional and legislative maps, both of which were upheld by the courts. Another lawsuit led by GOP lawmakers challenged the commission's existence, arguing that the U.S. Constitution reserved redistricting duties for state legislatures and did not permit those duties to be delegated to an independent commission. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the redistricting commission in a landmark 5-4 decision in 2015.
Arizona is expected to gain a 10th congressional seat after the 2020 Census is completed.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.