Most reporting about the current redistricting plans for both the Arizona legislature and the nine seats in the U.S. House put forward by the Independent Redistricting Commission failed to cover the system’s obvious flaws.

The Democrats gamed the system. To borrow a Chicago phrase, Republicans didn’t even bring a knife to a gunfight. They brought a pencil.

Born of the same mentality that brought you “Clean” elections, open primaries and at-home voting, the promoters were the unholy combination of self-righteous goody-two shoes combined with political hacks who can’t win an election under the traditional rules.

Voters passed the Independent Redistricting Commission in 2000. Applications are sent to the State Commission on Appellate Courts, who forward short lists of Republicans and Democrats to the legislative leaders of both parties.

Majority and minority leaders pick one each. There is also a geographical requirement. The final four choose the chair from another list given them of pre-selected Independents.

Boss Tweed noted that it doesn’t much matter who does the electing as long as he did the nominating. Democrats, being closer to Tweed in lineage, and having the Governorship for most of the last decade, made most of the appointments to all Commissions, which consist of many hard Democrats sprinkled with soft Republicans. Many of the latter actually think this game is on the level.

The Commission then redraws the districts based on multiple criteria, among them the one disproportionately adhered to while others were basically ignored, that districts should be as “competitive” as possible.

Those who originated this system pathologically feared both the voters and those they choose. Competitiveness is a bad criterion to begin with. What is wrong with people from a clearly defined geographic area having and keeping a legislator they actually like? That they might be too far left or right? Not, as one Star commentator said, willing to “appease”? What a despicable goal!

Maps purposely fractured towns and counties making it difficult for a legislator to represent the views of those who chose him or her by issuing far too many of them partial constituencies.

They also tipped their hand so obviously that even a mainstream reporter should notice when the supposed independent chairwoman joined with the two Democrats to hire without a real competitive process the firm giving the demographic criteria, choosing just coincidentally one who’s main experience was working for the Obama campaign, at the highest price of those competing.

Obama should hire them again. They based “competitive districts” mainly on voter registration and considered Independents a wash. Only there are big differences between Independents in University Heights and those in Benson. Registration is less indicative than prior voting patterns.

Averaging a large number of partisan races, Gabby Giffords’ old CD8 gave Republicans a slight edge of 6,000 votes. The new CD3 gives Democrats an edge of 12,000 votes, making it not only less competitive but more Democrat.

New maps place many more incumbent Republicans than Democrats outside their prior constituencies and force them to run off against each other, hardly an accidental by-product.

New CD1 has a GOP congressman in Flagstaff representing the Oro Valley area; it runs from Douglas to Utah, making it purposely difficult for him to represent lots of bits and pieces.

Which is why Republicans consider the whole process fraudulent and corrupt. Not just Republicans get had, so does Southern Arizona.

The system is far more opaque and corrupt than letting the legislature do it in the open. Like most attempts to remove politics from politics, its consequences further debase the system for no real gain beyond those who used it to their own partisan advantage.

The biggest loser of all is the principle of representative government.


Hear Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays on KVOI 1030 AM.

(1) comment


Gerrymandering under any description is bad. The Constitution says we should look at things over a 10 year period of time but it sounds like the party in power over the past year wants to control everything. That usually ends up in jail time. It is better to leave redistricting to those who are thoughtful and want to do the right thing. Partisan politics will be the ruination of us all and if I read history correctly--many do not--George Washington got it right.

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