In 2000, Arizona voters wisely decided it was time to stop Legislative incumbents from drawing their own districts and unfairly guaranteeing their own re-election. We enacted an Independent Redistricting Committee to return that power to the people, ensuring that politicians have to work to earn our vote.

In 2011, on the day after Halloween, Governor Jan Brewer and legislative extremists decided it was time to subvert the public will and grab that power back into their partisan hands by removing the head of the IRC for supposed crimes against the State.

The special session she called to remove citizen volunteer Chair Colleen Mathis, a registered Independent, took only 75 minutes from start to finish. No evidence was presented and Mathis was not allowed to speak on her own behalf. No due process was followed, just a naked power grab.

What were Mathis’ alleged criminal acts? They boiled down to one: Rolling out a draft congressional map that a couple of the incumbent Republicans didn’t like. This map, which is only a draft currently out for public comment, proposes four Republican safe seats, two Democratic safe seats, and three competitive districts. The Congressmen wanted seven safe Republican seats.

The legislative draft map, created in part by Mathis, also favors Republicans, guaranteeing them at least half the seats for the next 10 years.

Democrats and Independents are not pleased at all with that artificial Republican advantage, but instead of illegally attacking the citizen volunteers of the IRC, they did what every other Arizonan has the right to do, they made their concerns known at one of the scores of public forums held by the IRC all over the state in recent weeks.

How did the legislative extremists justify their actions? They cited a clause stating that the Governor, and two-thirds of the Senate may vote to remove an IRC member for “gross misconduct.”

What gross misconduct did they uncover in this case? None. As Arizona Supreme Court Vice Chief Justice Andrew Hurwitz explained in a Nov. 23 order explaining their Nov. 17 order reinstating Mathis as chair, the governor’s accusations do not “as a matter of law, identify conduct that provides a constitutional basis for removal.”

Even after this clear ruling, Brewer and legislative extremists are still dreaming up partisan schemes to grab back redistricting power for themselves, including asking voters, at the Republican-only presidential primary in February, to let legislators draw their own districts yet again.

The people voted to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature in 2000 for good reason. We must demand that the governor and legislative leaders stop the partisan power grab, and submit to fair and independent districts in Arizona, especially now that the Arizona Supreme Court has spoken.

If you agree, please sign my petition to Keep Redistricting Independent, online at

Steve Farley represents northside Tucson in the Arizona House of Representatives.

You can contact him at or 602-926-3022.

(1) comment


Representative Vic Williams has written an amazing piece for a State Representative who has heretofore mostly succeeded in remaining at a distance from the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, usually appearing quite reasonable in his positions and his rhetoric. Now he has come out as a super partisan, following in the steps of his stable mate, Representative Terri Proud. The fear for her political future that has motivated Ms. Proud in attacking the Independent Redistricting Commission from the moment the four partisan Commissioners unanimously chose Colleen Coyle Mathis to chair the Commission is now echoed shrilly by Mr. Williams. An Independent by registration, Ms. Mathis might have been registered as a Libertarian or a Green and been qualified to serve as Chairman, since the constitutional requirement is that the Chairman not be registered with any party already represented on the Commission. Further, the political leanings, registration, contributions, employment of a spouse or other family member are legally irrelevant to the qualification of an individual to serve on the Commission.

Although I was not actively engaged in following the work of the initial IRC ten years ago, my recollection is that it did not enjoy smooth sailing under the chairmanship of Steve Lynn. The Department of Justice was not initially satisfied with that Commission’s efforts to conform to the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, and the courts eventually played a significant role in the establishment of the districts with which the state has lived during the past decade. And questions were raised during the tenure of that Commission regarding the leanings of its Chairman, who had ties to then Congressman Jim Kolbe. But of course Mr. Williams had not yet moved to Arizona until after that Commission's work was done. Perhaps his not being here then explains the rosy picture he paints of its achievements.

I follow the political scene in Pima County closely enough to be somewhat surprised by Mr. Williams’ characterization of Nancy Young Wright as “unquestionably the most far left-wing ideolog who served in the Arizona House of Representatives.” Whether she would be pleased or not to be considered the most progressive member of a notoriously conservative body is for Ms. Young Wright to say, but Mr. Williams’ use of deliberately pejorative language does not speak well to his civility. I would ask Mr. Williams for some substantiation of his gratuitous assertion that the Young Wright campaign was ” one of the dirtiest in recent southern Arizona history.”

From his own words Mr. Williams makes clear that he has joined forces with the FAIR [Fearful And Intimidated Redistricting] Trust, apparently the creature of Arizona’s retiring junior U.S. Senator and the four members of Congress from his party who are planning to seek reelection in 2012. This group has been attempting to influence the course of the redistricting process since its beginning to the advantage of the party which currently has a 70% majority in the State Senate and 2/3 majority in the State House. He and they — along with Governor Brewer — are determined that fairness, competitiveness and basic justice shall be whatever they say they are.

I say let the Commission do its work, which at this stage is to pore over the mountains of comments, suggestions and pleas it has received during the course of a month of public hearings, and then to finalize its maps, addressing legitimate public concerns as best it can. I’m pretty certain no one will be completely satisfied, some will be quite unsatisfied, but the state will have Congressional and Legislative Districts with which we the people can live for the coming decade. And Friar Tuck concludes with words from Franklin Roosevelt’s first Inaugural Address: “… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”

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