After a frantic November, Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission has settled into a calm December reviewing comments for final lines for the state's congressional and legislative maps.
Following last month's decision by the state Supreme Court to overturn Gov. Jan Brewer's (R) controversial firing of the commission chairwoman, AIRC members are taking their time to finish up final maps. Three marathon commission meetings last week were dedicated to reviewing the draft maps that originally brought the commission into the limelight.
"They are still receiving public comment," commission spokesman Stu Robinson said.
Brewer dismissed commission chair Colleen Coyle Mathis with the consent of the Republican-controlled state Senate in early November over concerns with how the commission drafted the district map. Brewer alleged that Mathis conducted too many secret meetings and did not follow constitutional guidelines for drawing the draft map. The draft had upset the state's Republican congressional delegation by putting Rep. Ben Quayle (R) and Rep. David Schweiket (R) in the same district.
The court rebuffed Brewer and the Senate's request last week for clarification of the ruling, in an attempt to dismiss Mathis for a second time.
After she was reinstated, Mathis expressed hope to have the final maps adopted before Christmas. At the time of the statement, Mathis faced the threat of a second attempt by Brewer to unseat her.
"She wants to get the maps adopted before Christmas," Robinson told HuffPost today. "They are still shooting for that. I don't know if they'll make it."
Robinson said that scheduling difficulties among the bipartisan commission's members have made it difficult to schedule future meetings.
Robinson said that, in addition to the scheduling issues, there are differences between the Democratic and Republican sides of the commission in terms of the process the panel should use going forward.
"There are some commissioners who want to move the process along and others who want to go slower," he said, explaining that Republican commissioners want to take more time to review potential changes to the map.
Among the statements redistricting commissioners heard this week, state Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs (R) told the group that he wanted the commission to start from scratch with the maps, reiterating many of the same concerns Brewer had listed when dismissing the chairwoman. State House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D) used his testimony to lambast Republicans for trying to oust Mathis.
The redistricting commission's work coincides with state Republicans' pushing of a measure to overhaul the commission's structure. Republican legislative leaders have outlined plans to amend the state constitution to change the panel from two Republicans, two Democrats and one independent to three from each group. The move would strip the independent -- who serves as the panel's chair -- of the tie-breaking power now wielded by Mathis.
Robinson said the commission's biggest concern at the moment is finalizing the state's majority-minority districts to make sure they meet federal voting rights guidelines.
"They want to get those through the Justice Department on the first try," he said.
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