Northern Gila County may have been given three more seats on the redistricting boat, but that’s no guarantee for smooth sailing. Its first day at sea left the committee’s election of a chairman in knots.
The redistricting committee had its first meeting March 22 and it had only two action items. The first was to select a chair. The other was to determine the date of its next meeting.
The committee’s guidelines, created by the county’s election office and approved by the supervisors, require approval of any action by nine votes, not a simply majority of 7.
The committee took five different votes. The first two were to elect a chairman. Thomas Moody of Globe was nominated and so was Mike Vogel of Payson. In the first vote, each nominee was given six votes. The outcome was the same in the second vote. In both cases, the polling was evenly split between the north and south representatives.
Moody said he didn’t want to see the committee become a north vs. south fight, so offered to withdraw his name.
The third vote was to name co-chairs. That failed 3-9.
At that point Moody withdrew his name and Bob Pastor, another Globe resident and nominator of Moody in the first place, nominated Roberto Sanchez of Star Valley for the post. Sanchez declined.
The fourth vote was to elect Vogel chair. That failed as well, with Vogel getting only eight votes, so it failed 8-4.
Finally, with a unanimous vote, the committee agreed to put off electing a chairman until its next meeting, giving members a chance to become better acquainted with one another.
The group will meet in about a month to begin reviewing the census data the county has just received.
In the meantime, the members may send county elections director Linda Eastlick brief autobiographies to be included in the group’s next information packet.
In other business, deputy county attorney Bryan Chambers gave the redistricting committee a crash course in open meeting law. This was followed by presentations by the county’s redistricting consultants Bruce Adelson and Tony Sissons.
Adelson is a former U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division senior attorney and was team leader for review of all Arizona redistricting submissions in 2000. His work with the committee and county will include: examination of DOJ files on Gila County, advice on strategy to avoid diluting special voting populations of Native Americans and Hispanics, provide an “insider” view of new DOJ regulations and procedures and advise on the content of the county’s application for DOJ preclearance.
Because of past bad practices, Arizona is one of several states that must have its redistricting plans “precleared” by the federal government before elections can be held.
Sissons has managed 17 successful city and county redistricting processes (one city, 16 counties) — all were precleared by the DOJ on first submission and none were ever challenged in court. He will provide technical and procedural assistance to Gila County staff and the redistricting committee.
Sissons will analyze the census data for the redistricting process and will eventually draw the formal boundary maps for the supervisor, community college and joint technical education districts.