Fri, April 03

Redistricting process splits Yavapai County

Most of Yavapai County is likely to be split away from its congressman's hometown as new decennial redistricting maps near completion, while most of the county keeps its three state legislators.

Those same state legislators warn that Yavapai County and other rural areas will become dominated by the Phoenix metropolitan area, since the metro population is likely to increase at a faster rate over the next decade while the new maps are in effect.

Anthem, Carefree and New River are in the same Republican-dominated Legislative District 14 as Prescott and most of Yavapai County.

"We are now an urbanized district, and it won't take long for an urbanized area to come in and take over because of growth," said Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden.

"We are not a rural district anymore," agreed Senate President-elect Steve Pierce, R-Prescott. He suggested Yavapai County and Prescott should sue.

"I don't know what the heck we have in common with Carefree and Anthem," said Mal Barrett Jr., chair of the Yavapai County Republican Party. "They split rural counties up badly all over the state."

The tentative final legislative and congressional maps were approved by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Dec. 20. Officials say minor changes might occur after technical and legal reviews; then the U.S. Department of Justice will review them.

Verde Valley separated

State legislators from the Prescott region and Barrett also decry the maps' separation of the Prescott area from much of the Verde Valley. Yavapai County's population of 211,000 meets redistricting population requirements. Tentative final district populations range between 203,000-222,000.

The new legislative map takes most of the Verde Valley away from the Prescott region and puts it with Flagstaff in the new Legislative District 6.

"I believe this definitely is going to divide our county again," said Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott. The new Legislative District 6 officials will likely be from Coconino County, and "they do not understand the water issues of the Big Chino and Verde River," she said.

Most speakers at a Prescott Valley redistricting hearing in October expressed opposition to draft maps that separated the Prescott region from the Verde Valley.

"It's kind of like a divorce," Prescott resident Sally Lerette lamented at the public hearing.

But most Verde Valley residents who spoke at a November redistricting hearing in Cottonwood said they wanted to be separate from the Prescott area, with the notable exception of the Cottonwood City Council.

"I'm happy for my colleagues in the Verde Valley because they're in a more competitive district, and that's what they wanted," Yavapai County Democratic Party Chair Lindsay Bell said this week. "I've lived here a long time and married somebody from the Verde Valley. There's a longstanding rivalry... They often feel like they get the short shrift."

The tentative final congressional redistricting map also splits part of the Verde Valley away from the rest of Yavapai County.

The map splits away Camp Verde, Lake Montezuma, the Village of Oak Creek and Sedona. Those Verde Valley communities end up in Congressional District 1 with Flagstaff. Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar lives in Flagstaff, and he'll have more Democrats in his new district.

Prescott and the rest of the county end up in Congressional District 4 with parts of Maricopa (including Apache Junction), Gila, Pinal (including Florence), Mohave, La Paz and Yuma counties.

The Republican-dominated CD4 is not home to any incumbent member of the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. David Schweikert's Fountain Hills residence was drawn out of the district in the tentative final boundary.

Arizona Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, is exploring a candidacy for the CD4 job. He is barred by term limits from seeking another Arizona Senate term.

Several people also voiced support for keeping most of Yavapai County in congressional and legislative districts labeled #1, because it is called Arizona's "Mother County," but that didn't happen. Yavapai originally was the largest of only four counties.

Republican attack

Gov. Jan Brewer and Republican supermajority leaders in the Legislature have repeatedly attacked the commission process, saying the two Democrats and the lone Independent are not following the Constitution. Brewer tried to remove the Independent commission chair but the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the action, saying it lacked a constitutional basis.

A redistricting commission analysis shows that Republicans have a majority in 17 of the state's 30 legislative districts. Only two districts have less than a 10 percent spread between Republican and Democratic voters, with Democrats in the majority.

In the congressional map, four of the districts are dominated by Republicans, while three are dominated by Democratic voters and two are tightly competitive.

Statewide, 35.5 percent of Arizonans are Republicans and 31.1 percent are Democrats.

Arizona voters created the redistricting commission in 2000, taking the job away from the Legislature. A new commission redraws congressional and legislative districts every decade based on new Census numbers.

The maps will outline the boundaries of Arizona's congressional and legislative districts for the coming decade, based on new U.S. Census population numbers. They are important because they can determine whether Republicans or Democrats win elections.

Some people will always be happy with the maps and some will not, Redistricting Commission Chair Colleen Mathis said.

"We will all still be Arizonans," she told the crowd at the packed PV hearing.

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