Rim Country Could Gain Clout In New Districting

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A draft congressional redistricting map released by the Independent Redistricting Commission Saturday would give Payson and the Rim country new political clout.

If the map is adopted this week as expected, one of two new congressional seats gained by the state in the 2000 census would be awarded to a huge area of rural Arizona. Besides Payson, the new district would include Flagstaff, Prescott, Kingman, Bullhead City and Window Rock.

In terms of area, the rural district would cover well over half the state. Politically, Democrats would have a 41-38 percent edge over Republicans based on past voting history.

The other new district in southwestern Arizona, encompassing an area made up of largely of Native American and Hispanic voters would grant new strength to minority voters.

But with the eight congressional districts apparently taking final form, the commission continues to struggle to create the 30-piece legislative version of the redistricting puzzle. The commission's goal of providing separate representation for rural and urban areas has led to difficulties in the rural areas.

Steve Lynn, commission chairman, said it is easier to move populations around in denser, urban areas than it is in sprawling rural areas. At this point, the commission appears to have settled on one district that encompasses "the Mogollon Rim and White Mountain region of east-central Arizona," according to an Associated Press report.

The commission, which was created by Proposition 106 to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature, plans to resume its work Thursday in Tucson. It comprises two Republicans, two Democrats and one independent.

Dixie Mundy, director of elections for Gila County, is not getting too excited about the commission's work just yet.

"I've just never known the first one or two plans to be final," she said.

Once the congressional and legislative maps are finalized, the commission will hold 17 public hearings around the state. None of those public hearings are scheduled for Gila County.

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