The process was expected to start this spring, but the U.S. Census Bureau announced last month that it will not be able to deliver needed data from the 2020 Census until late September. That means the commission can’t begin drawing new maps until early October, and it must complete the job by early 2022. [By BOB CHRISTIE March 16, 2021]
The 2001 and 2011 maps led to prolonged court challenges, including a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld Arizona voters’ decision to strip the redistricting process from the Legislature.
The redistricting commission was created by voters to limit political influence by the Legislature in redrawing congressional and legislative district maps. The process that follows each U.S. Census is politically important because redrawn district lines can limit how many legislative and U.S. House seats each party can realistically win.
The commission has five members — two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent who serves as chair. The partisan members are chosen by legislative leaders and the chair from a list created by a judicial appointment panel. The chair often acts as a tie-breaking vote.
Under the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2000, the redistricting commission must consider population, voting rights, geographic features, communities of interest and competitiveness when drawing new districts.
Like all states, Arizona must comply with constitutional equal population requirements, and state law further asks that districts have equal population to the extent practicable. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(14)(B)]
Arizona must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.
The Arizona constitution, uniquely, requires that the district map begin with a “grid-like pattern.” Districts are then adjusted to be contiguous, geographically compact, and respect communities of interest — all to the extent practicable. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(14); Ariz. Minority Coal. for Fair Redistricting v. Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n, 121 P.3d 843 (Ariz. Ct. Appeal 2005)]
The state constitution also provides that, to the extent practicable, district lines should use visible geographic features, city, town, and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(14)] Finally, the state constitution asks that, to the extent practicable, competitive districts be favored where doing so would not significantly detract from the goals above. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(14); Ariz. Minority Coal. for Fair Redistricting v. Ariz. Ind. Redistricting Comm’n, 208 P.3d 676 (Ariz. 2009)]
State legislative districts are, by definition, nested; one Senator and two Representatives are elected from each district. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(1)]
Party registration and voting history data may not be used in the “initial phase” of the mapping process, but can be used to ensure that plans ultimately meet the goals above. The commission may not consider the homes of candidates. [Ariz. Const. art. IV, pt. 2, § 1(15)]
Information provided by: All About Redistricting