The White Mountains will likely remain in a state legislative district that includes Flagstaff while Navajo Reservation border towns would end up in a different district.

The Independent Redistricting Commission has released its final draft map of state congressional and legislative districts that leave the current political balance of power relatively unchanged — at the cost of creating only a handful of competitive districts.

The White Mountains would end up in a new state Legislative District 7, which leans Republican but remains potentially competitive.

The weirdly shaped district would include portions of Coconino, Navajo, Gila and Pinal counties.

The Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Havasupai, White Mountain Apache and San Carlos Apache reservations would end up in a redrawn state Legislative District 6 — along with much of Winslow and Holbrook and southern Apache County.

This map answers some of the objections raised by the Navajo Nation to the first draft map.

Rural Republicans vowed to mount a last-ditch effort to convince the commission to shift once again to embrace a map that would create a bullet-proof Republican state legislative district consisting mostly of rural, non-reservation communities in four rural counties.

Instead, the draft map closely resembles the existing district lines, which have returned Republicans to the Legislature in every election in a decade — but not by lopsided margins.

When it comes to Congress, the final draft map leaves the sprawling Congressional District 2 largely unchanged from the draft map.

The district would lean Republican and incumbent Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, and Rep.Tom O’Halleran, D-Oak Creek, would end up in the same district.

The new district would be a lot less Republican than Gosar’s current district — but also somewhat more Republican than O’Halleran’s current swing district — setting up tough choices for each of them.

Almost 100 people spoke at a recent redistricting hearing in Payson, with most supporting a map that kept rural, non-reservation, mostly Republican areas together, reflecting the direction to keep “communities of interest” together.

However, Navajo speakers said the draft maps would make it almost impossible to elect a Native American to Congress and that the state legislative map would create a district dominated by Flagstaff rather than reservation communities.

Although reservation Democrats dominate, low turnout in primaries on the reservation has given Democratic voters in Flagstaff effective control over the nomination.

This would violate the requirement to avoid diluting minority voting rights, said a parade of Navajo speakers.

The new maps create a legislative seat a Native American could most likely win — but could also leave heavily Democratic reservation communities in a Republican dominated congressional district.

Finally, some Democrats who spoke supported boundaries that would create as many competitive districts as possible — saying that giving either party an overwhelming advantage would mean elections get decided in the primary.

They maintained this results in more extreme candidates and more partisanship in the Legislature.

The new maps create few truly competitive districts — just one congressional seat (District 3) and three or four competitive legislative seats.

So in the end, the final draft map will leave most of those advocates unsatisfied.

The new District 7 will mostly resemble the current District 6, with the bulk of the voters in Republican areas of Gila and Navajo counties — balanced against the mostly Democratic voters around Flagstaff in Coconino County.

State representatives in the current District 6 include Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, and Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson.

The redistricting commission published an analysis attempting to estimate how competitive each district would be, based on voting patterns from the last nine elections.

District 7 would have a population of 241,000, about 3,000 more than the statewide population average.

The district’s voting age population would be 19% Hispanic, 72% white, 2% Black, 2% Asian and 5% Native American.

Republicans have won all nine of the most recent elections.

In the 2018 governor’s race, the new district voted 41% for the Democratic candidate for governor and 46% for the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

Overall, the analysis for the 30 legislative districts shows little change in the current political balance of power in either Congress or the Legislature.

Currently, the two parties are almost evenly balanced on both fronts.

However, based on past voting patterns, only three or four of the 30 legislative seats would be truly competitive.

In most of the districts, one party or the other has won all nine of the most recent elections.

The neighboring, reservation-dominated District 6 would represent a safe Democratic seat, despite the inclusion of Winslow and Holbrook on the edge of the Navajo Reservation and the conservative, non-reservation areas of southern Apache county.

District 6 would have 226,000 residents, about 12,000 fewer than the average district statewide.

The voting age population would be 7% Hispanic, 32% white, 1% Black and 60% Native American.

Democrats have won in every one of the past nine elections. In 2018, 52% of voters favored the Democratic candidate for governor, and 58% supported the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

The final draft map for Congressional District 2 closely resembles the first draft map. The boundaries take in as many reservation communities as possible and covers a vast area from the Grand Canyon to the New Mexico border and from the Utah border almost to Tucson. The southern edge of the district curls around metro Phoenix.

The district would have a population of 792,000, about 2,000 less than the average district in the state. The voting age population would be 15% Hispanic, 61% white, 2% Black, 1% Asian and 21% Native American.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

(2) comments

BIGFOOT

This is misleading! The final Drafts will be issue December 22nd. It still could change.

pxllr

It's fascinating watching this. The GOP wants districts that will guarantee GOP control of the majority of the districts. The Democrats want maps where all districts are competitive and equitable. Why are those in the GOP so fearful of competitiveness? It is almost like they know they can not win on their policies nor their ability to win elections without cheating.

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