Tue, July 23

Lawsuit calls for splitting tri-city area<br><i>Coalition sues Redistricting Commission</i>

A lawsuit against the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission calls for new legislative districts that would split up the Prescott tri-city area.

The lawsuit’s map puts Prescott Valley in a different district than Prescott and Chino Valley.

The Arizona Minority Coalition for Fair Redistricting filed the lawsuit Wednesday. The coalition, which includes all the Latino state legislators, says the new legislative districts don’t offer enough competition between Republicans and Democrats. None of the plaintiffs are Republicans.

The coalition wants the Maricopa County Superior Court either to order the commission to use the coalition’s proposed legislative districts map, or produce a new one with more districts that have more of a chance for Democrats to win.

The coalition’s map puts Prescott and Chino Valley into a district that stretches north to Seligman and west to the Colorado River. The district with Prescott Valley would go east to take in the Verde Valley and north to the rim of the Grand Canyon. The plan would group Yavapai County south of Prescott and the Highway 69 corridor with Wickenburg, Peoria, Surprise, Buckeye, Goodyear, and parts of Sun City West and Phoenix.

The coalition map would produce nine competitive districts vs. the commission’s six, coalition attorney Michael Mandell said.

Mandell and Yavapai County Democratic Chair Stan Turner said it’s not necessarily bad to split up the Prescott tri-cities, because they’d get more legislators.

“I think it could be making lemonade out of lemons,” Turner said Thursday. “There would be nine legislators working for the tri-cities instead of three.”

When there’s only a 1-percent difference between registered Republicans and Democrats in this state, Democrats should have more of a chance in more districts, Turner said.

The coalition couldn’t find a way to put Prescott and Prescott Valley into the same district and still make it competitive for Democrats, Mandell said.

“We don’t think we’ve created a problem for them, though,” Mandell said. “It doesn’t hurt the area to have more than one voice in the Legislature.”

Candidates in this fall’s election are getting antsy for the new legislative and congressional districts to become final. The U.S. Department of Justice now says it has until late April to review them for racial fairness.

The coalition wouldn’t delay the process, Mandell said. It hopes for an expedited trial within six weeks, and it may argue that the court should make the coalition map go into effect temporarily if the litigation continues on, he said.

State Republican Party Chair Bob Fannin said Arizonans for Fair and Legal Representation, a group of individual Republicans, will seek to join the case and defend the commission’s legislative map.

Yavapai County Republicans prefer to keep this county as intact as possible in one district.

“And we particularly feel that the tri-city area needs to be in one district,” Yavapai County Republican Chair Steve Pierce said Thursday.

The county Republican Party has been consistent on that stance. A local outcry at a draft commission map that would have split up the tri-cities led the commission to put them in one district in its final legislative map.

Rep. Henry Camarot, D-Prescott, is a member of the Minority Coalition because his ancestry includes Latino blood. He disagrees with the map the coalition is proposing, however, and believes that the tri-cities should remain together, he said.

Proposition’s goals argue both ways

Proposition 106, which Arizona voters approved in November 2000, created the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The proposition took away the authority of the state Legislature to redraw Arizona’s Congressional and legislative districts every 10 years when a new census is complete.

The proposition directs the commission to satisfy six goals. Those goals include:

• “District boundaries shall respect communities of interest to the extent practicable.”

• “To the extent practicable, competitive districts should be favored where to do so would create no significant detriment to the other goals.”

The latter goal, referring to competitiveness among political parties, is the only one of six that indicates it is not as important as the others.