Final Redistricting Maps Upend Rim Country Vote

Northern Gila County will have new state, fed representatives with new district boundaries

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Currently, Payson constitutes one of the larger towns in an overwhelmingly rural, mostly forested district in both Congress and the state Legislature. The new district will lump Payson in with distant towns, in both Congress and the Legislature.

In the state Legislature, Payson will end up in Republican-leaning district that stretches from the south rim of the Grand Canyon and down through Flagstaff and Sedona before jogging east to pick up Payson, Snowflake, Holbrook and Show Low. Continuing south, the 219,000-person district would pick up Carefree and portions of Fountain Hills. Payson would account for about 7 percent of the district’s population.

Legislative District 6 would have voter registration rolls that are 37 percent Republican, 29 percent Democrat and 33 percent Independent. Voting patterns in previous elections would give Republicans about 54 percent of the vote and Democrats about 44 percent of the vote. The district would be 78 percent white, 5 percent Native American and 13 percent Hispanic.

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In the state Legislature, Payson will end up in a district that includes the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Sedona, Snowflake, Holbrook and Show Low.

In Congress, Payson would end up in Congressional District 4, along with Prescott, Pine, Strawberry, Star Valley, Young, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, Wickenburg, Kingman, Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City, Parker, Quartzite and portions of Yuma.

The new district will be heavily Republican, with 42 percent Republicans, 23 percent Democrats and 35 percent Independents. In recent elections an analysis shows that Republicans get 64 percent of the vote and Democrats just 36 percent.

Whites constitute 76 percent of the voters in the new District 4, with Hispanics accounting for 18 percent and Native Americans about 2 percent.

Currently, all of Gila County sits in Congressional District 1 represented by Flagstaff dentist Paul Gosar. Dominated by Flagstaff, the current district includes all of four, vast rural counties that constitute almost the entire eastern half of the state.

None of the state’s incumbent congressmen live in the new District 4, making it an open seat in the upcoming election.

Currently, the territory that would become the new Congressional District 4 falls into three different existing congressional districts, one represented by Gosar, one by Glendale Republican Trent Franks and one by Tucson Democrat Raul Grijalva.

The recent release of the commission’s final proposed maps caps months of controversy.

The final map will increase the number of competitive districts in both the Legislature and Congress. Analysts say the congressional map will create four Republican-leaning districts, two Democratic-leaning districts and three competitive districts.

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In Congress, Payson would end up in Congressional District 4, along with Prescott, Pine, Strawberry, Star Valley, Young, Cottonwood, Wickenburg, Kingman, Bullhead City, Quartzite and portions of Yuma.

The proposed state legislative map will likely make only three of the state’s 30 legislative districts competitive, where either party could likely win. The rest will favor one party or the other.

Supporters of the independent redistricting plan say creating competitive districts where the election isn’t decided in the party primaries will moderate the polarization of the Legislature. That more accurately reflects the views of the state voters. About 1.1 million Arizona voters have registered as Republican, 1 million as Democrats and about 1 million as Independents. The number of people registered in either of the two major parties has declined slightly in the past decade, while the number of people with no party affiliation has jumped 18 percent.

Moreover, supporters of the commission’s maps say that if the maps don’t keep minority communities intact, they will be overturned by the Justice Department as they were a decade ago.

Critics say the commission’s attempt to create competitive districts ended up splitting up natural political subdivisions and communities of interest, like Gila County — and in fact most of the counties in the state. The commission picked a map drawing consultant that had worked for Democratic clients and did too much crucial work behind closed doors.

The final maps must go for an additional review by the commission’s consultants focused mostly on whether the boundaries will break up minority communities in a way likely to prompt a rejection of the maps by the Justice Department. Once the consultants suggest a final tweak of the district lines, the maps will go to the Justice Department.

In the meantime, Republican lawmakers are trying to enlist counties, cities and towns in an effort to overturn the proposed final maps.

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