Maps proposed by Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Committee would create safe Republican Congressional and state legislative seats to include all of the cities in Rim Country and the White Mountains.

The proposed maps would essentially lop off the White Mountains and Reservation portion of Rep. Tom O’Halleran’s 1st Congressional District. He lives in Oak Creek, which would end up in District 2 — the same district as Rep. Paul Gosar, who lives in Prescott.

Rep. Paul Gosar would lose much of the western half of his district, but pick up Flagstaff, the White Mountains and the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. He would lose the overwhelming Republican margins in his current district. The new district would include almost all of Gila, Navajo Apache and Coconino counties.

The new Congressional District 2 would have a roughly 8.5% Republican voter registration advantage. A DataOrbital analysis found that in 2020, the vote in the district would have been 54% for Trump and 45% for Biden.

The proposed maps would also work big changes in the state legislative maps.

The new State Legislative District 7 would include Payson, Show Low, Snowflake, Pinetop-Lakeside, Eagar, Winslow, Globe and Florence. This would create a relatively safe Republican District. The district would have a roughly 30% Republican advantage. In the last election, voters in that area went for Trump by a 64% margin, according to DataOrbital.com.

However, Flagstaff as well as the Navajo and the Hopi reservations could end up in legislative District 6, a safe Democratic seat in which Native American voters would dominate. Voters in the area covered by the proposed district went for Biden by a 63% margin.

The Congressional maps would likely leave the state’s partisan balance in congress untouched, with four Democratic seats, four Republican seats and one swing seat. Democrats current hold five seats and Republicans four.

The state legislative maps would also likely leave the current balance of power relatively untouched overall – with the Republicans currently holding a wafer-thin margin in both the state House and Senate.

The commission will hold a series of hearings statewide to gather input before coming out with final maps.

The draft maps have already drawn an array of responses, largely depending on whether district lines split up communities – and whether incumbents will find themselves with a tougher fight based on where the lines end up.

Voters created the Independent Redistricting Commission in 2000, taking the job out of the hands of the legislature. Critics argued that lawmakers were more intent on protecting incumbents and drawing lines to maintain control for the party in power than for keeping communities together or protecting minority voting rights.

The redistricting commission faced intense criticism in 2011, but the maps drawn to protect communities of interest, ensure equal sized districts and create as many competitive districts as possible survived legal challenges. Political experts say the independent commission resulted in less gerrymandering and more competitive districts than most maps drawn by legislatures nationwide.

Both parties have been maneuvering for months to influence the appointment of commissioners and raise money from party faithful to lobby for maps that favor one party or the other. Nationally, Republicans control more legislatures in which they also control the governorship. This suggests they’ll likely come out ahead in drawing district lines, especially in states where the legislature controls the process.

The completion of the 2020 census triggered a national furor of map drawing and political battles – with the control of Congress and many state houses hanging in the balance. Political observers widely expected Arizona to gain a seat, but population growth proved slower than projections. The lack of a new seat simplifies the line-drawing process.

The redistricting commission’s primary charge is to create districts with nearly equal populations. After that, the district lines strive to unite “communities of interest,” take into account geographical boundaries and avoid diluting minority voting rights. A less important priority is to create as many competitive districts as possible, where either party could win a general election battle.

Historically, lawmakers trying to gerrymander districts would take advantage of the tendency of minority groups historically to support Democrats.

So Democratic lines spread minority voters into multiple districts, to provide a winning margin for Democrats. Republican line-drawers would generally concentrate minority voters in as few districts as possible, creating a few lopsidedly Democratic districts to end up with more winnable Republican Districts.

The federal Voting Rights Act for years cast a long shadow across the redistricting process in states that had lost lawsuits due to a pattern of line drawing that limited the impact of minority voters, including Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans. Arizona’s district lines had been repeatedly challenged to the point the state needed approval from the federal Department of Justice before it could adopt final maps. However, US Supreme Court decisions have since done away with that system, so Arizona’s maps no longer need to receive pre-clearance from the Justice Department. That doesn’t mean the maps can’t still be challenged in court for civil rights violations.

So the redistricting commission will have to juggle those concerns in drawing maps, including decisions about whether to split up minority communities like Native Americans. Divide minority communities among too many different districts and the odds of electing a candidate of color dwindle. But concentrate minority voters too much and then end up with influence in only a few districts.

So here’s a rundown on the proposed legislative and congressional districts that would include both Rim Country and the White Mountains.

State Legislative

District 7

Area: Williams, Payson, Tonto Basin, Globe, Florence, Show Low, Snowflake, Pinetop-Lakeside, Eagar, Winslow.

Population

Population: 232,467

Voting Age Population: 190,406

Demographics

Voting Eligible Citizens: 186,539

Hispanic: 19%

Native American: 9%

Competitive Data Analysis

Vote Spread: 30%

Leaning: Republican

Competitiveness: Outside of Competitive Range

Votes for Dem. Candidates : 35.10%

Votes for Rep. Candidates: 64.90%

2020 Presidential Election: 33%

2018 Governor (%): 28.63%

2018 Attorney General : 34.37%

Vote Spread Defined: Difference between average Democratic and average Republican votes in 9 state elections. All percentages for elections are shown as Democratic percentages meaning the 0-49% range is Republican Leaning and 51-100% is Democratic Leaning. A “Highly Competitive” district is seen as having a 4% spread or less. A “Competitive” district is seen as having a range between 4% and 7%.

State Legislative

District 6

Area: Flagstaff, Page, Navajo Reservation, Hopi reservation, Kayenta, Window Rock, Northern Apache and Navajo Counties, Hualapai Indian reservation, Kayenta, San Carlos Apache Reservation

Population

Population: 234,381

Voting Age Population: 177,199

Demographics

Eligible voters: 174,234

Hispanic: 7%

Native American: 58%

Competitive Data Analysis

Vote Spread: 42.44%

Leaning: Democratic

Competitiveness: Outside of Competitive Range

Votes for Dem. Candidates: 71%

Votes for Rep. Candidates: 29%

2020 Presidential Election: 71%

2018 Governor (%) 65%

2018 Attorney General: 70%

Vote Spread Defined: Difference between average Democratic and average Republican votes in 9 state elections. All percentages for elections are shown as Democratic percentages meaning the 0-49% range is Republican Leaning and 51-100% is Democratic Leaning. A “Highly Competitive” district is seen as having a 4% spread or less. A “Competitive” district is seen as having a range between 4% and 7%.

Congressional District 2:

Population

Population: 794,610

Voting age population: 625,990

Demographics

Eligible voters:: 594,413

Hispanic: 13.03%

Non-Hispanic Native American Single-Race: 21 %

Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native: 18.30%

Competitive Data Analysis

Vote Spread: 8%

Leaning: Republican

Competitiveness: Outside of Competitive Range

Votes for Dem. Candidates: 46%

Votes for Rep. Candidates: 54%

2020 Presidential Election (%): 46%

2018 Governor (%): 40%

2018 Attorney General (%): 45%

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

(3) comments

pxllr

My understanding of the purpose of the IRC was to make it so no one party has an unfair advantage in any district. Here we have 2 districts that will be locked in to particular parties. One will be locked to Dems and one to the GOP. They should be arranged so neither party has a lock on either district. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of the IRC?

I Always Vote

pxllr is right that "safe" districts which have lop-sided registration favoring one party are discouraged. Competitiveness is one of the strongest factors the Redistricting Commission is supposed to adhere to, but as this article points out, they have not done so in Northern AZ. This imbalance could be largely avoided if the Commissioners would adopt the alternate maps proposed by the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.

If you don't like the the current imbalance, the public is invited to comment on this situation for 30 days. You can do this easily at http://irc.az.gov/contact-us .

2rusty

For many years I've been of the opinion that legislative districts should be drawn to include voters who actually share common needs and interests. The gerrymandering that takes place to cater to political parties doesn't help those who need water legislation or new snow plows. What legislative needs do farmers in Florence have in common with people in the White Mountains? Set districts permanently and let voters figure it out for themselves.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.