The Independent Redistricting Commission will hold a public meeting in Payson on Wednesday to talk about its proposed new map for the state’s nine congressional districts, including a plan to split Gila County between two districts.
The Payson meeting will take place at the Best Western Conference Center on Highway 87 opposite the Swiss Village at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Discussion will likely focus on the plan to move northern Gila County into Congressional District 4, a mostly Republican seat that will include Prescott and the western third of the state from Yuma to Utah. Northern Gila County would wind up in a district dominated by Colorado River cities like Yuma and Lake Havasu.
Southern Gila County would remain in District 1, which would include Flagstaff, the Apache, Hopi and Navajo Indian Reservations and the eastern third of the state from Four Corners all the way down to the Mexico border. Registration in that district would remain relatively balanced between Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
Currently, District 1 includes all of Gila County and stretches from Flagstaff to the Navajo Reservation and down to Casa Grande.
The commission, composed of three Democrats, three Republicans and one Independent, last week approved the congressional maps on a split vote. Chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis, an Independent from Pima County, said “I think we’ve worked really hard on this, and it’s time to move forward.”
Mathis and the two Democrats on the commission — Linda McNulty and Vice Chairman José Herrera (D-Maricopa County) seconded the motion. Mathis, Herrera and McNulty all voted yes. Commissioner Richard Stertz, a Pima County Republican, voted no. Vice Chairman Scott Freeman, a Maricopa County Republican, abstained.
The vote triggered a 30-day comment period, punctuated by hearings all around the state. The commission will then submit the final maps to the U.S. Department of Justice, which must review the state’s redistricting plans due to allegations that past redistricting efforts have undercut the voting rights of minority residents.
The proposed congressional redistricting plan would include two heavily minority districts — one in south Phoenix and one stretching along the Mexico border from Yuma to Tucson — both likely safe Democratic seats.
The plan would also include three heavily Republican districts in Maricopa County and two other relatively balanced districts in Maricopa and Pima counties.
Top Republican officials statewide have lambasted the proposal, saying it benefits Democrats. Moreover, they have decried the commission’s willingness to split counties and cities up in order to create as many “competitive” districts as possible, where the party registration remains evenly enough balanced that either a Democrat or a Republican could conceivably win the seat.
The process shifts extra congressional seats toward the fastest growing states. In this case, Arizona picked up an extra congressional seat — forcing a major change in congressional boundaries.