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Brewer Undermines Redistricting Committee

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By Mary Moreno

Redistricting is so rife with partisan gerrymandering that when a state reveals plans that give more power to the party in power, barely anyone blinks. It's expected.

It's only when parties blatantly overreach that they attract attention, like Texas did when it decided not to carve out any new Latino-majority seats even though the four seats Texas gained after the 2010 Census were on account of the explosive growth of the state's Latino population.

This week, a three-judge panel blocked Texas' plans. A court in Texas will now redraw temporary maps, and the maps approved by the legislature will stand trial to determine if they are discriminatory.

While that's interesting, what's happening in Arizona is even more fascinating. Arizona's voters in 2000 decided a committee comprised of two Democrats, two Republicans and an Independent would be responsible for redistricting. The hope then was that they would come up with a map that minimized partisanship gerrymandering. An editorial by the Arizona Daily Star said "voters spoke loud and clear in 2000 when they took the job of redistricting away from the Legislature and gave it to the commission. They didn't want incumbents in direct control."

The committee produced maps that, to the best of their abilities, met the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. According to the Arizona Daily Star, the requirements are: newly drawn districts cannot dilute the voting strength of minorities, and they must have equal population, preserve communities of interest, be compact and contiguous, and be competitive.

But Brewer didn't like the maps. Among other things, Brewer cited "an overreliance on competitiveness as a factor in drawing new boundary lines," according to the Arizona Republic. That's right, Brewer didn't think the maps had enough safe seats. According to USA Today, the commission's draft map has four safe Republican seats, two safe Democratic seats and three seats where the party balance is within 10 percentage points. The old map favors the GOP 5-3. The state gained a seat after the 2010 census.

So Brewer moved swiftly to oust the chairwoman Colleen Mathis, the lone Independent in the group. Brewer called a special legislative session so the state senate could vote on the chairwoman's impeachment, which voted 21-6 in favor of ousting her.

The law does allow for impeaching the commission for "gross misconduct." But the New York Times noted, "The authors of the 2000 law stressed that the "gross misconduct" ground for removal was written for egregious misdeeds like bribe taking and influence peddling -- not the partisan displeasure of an incumbent majority... Voters who opted for something better 11 years ago should score Ms. Mathis's removal as a deliberate act of political intimidation -- and a cynical attempt to end run the law."

Mathis is appealing her removal to the Arizona Supreme Court. A hearing is scheduled for November 17.

Mary Moreno is the communications director at Voto Latino. Before joining VL, she worked as a crime reporter for five newspapers and as a press secretary for two DC nonprofits. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she's a proud Texan who currently lives in DC. For other posts by Mary Moreno, click here.