Early next month, five people you’ve never heard of and didn’t vote for will for two years become five of the most powerful people in Arizona.
The Arizona Redistricting Commission – two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent, will redraw Arizona’s political boundaries.
Their’s will be a tedious, thankless job plagued by complainers, whiners and litigators.
Whatever decisions they make will be opposed by some group through either sanctimonious press conferences, outraged editorials, temper-tantrum legislative floor speeches, threats of lawsuits or actual lawsuits.
That’s what happened 10 years ago when voters created the commission in an effort to take the politics out of the apportioning of political power and it’s certain to happen again.
The commission hasn’t even been chosen yet and the complaining and legal threats have already begun.
House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President-elect Russell Pearce, who are two of the four people who will choose four of the five commission members, already have objected through, letters, press conferences and other means to three of 10 Republicans nominated by another state panel as finalists for the appointments.
To get on the commission, the state’s Commission on Appellate Appointments pares a list of applicants to 25: 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats and five independents. Adams and Pearce will select the two Republicans and the Legislature’s top two Democrats, Rep. Chad Campbell and Sen. David Schapira, will choose the two Democrats. Those chosen four will choose the independent from the list of five and that person will serve as the commission’s chairman.
Adams’ and Pearce’s complaints are mostly grandstanding. If they don’t like three of the candidates, they don’t have to choose them.
This procedural bickering is more of an attempt to influence who is a finalist so the two powerful Republicans have a more ideological group to choose from.
It’s this kind of meddling that the commission and its complicated appointment process was intended to prevent.
But the commission, for all its noble intentions, can’t avoid the meddling, it’s that important. The key for the state’s voters isn’t whether various groups attempt to meddle, it’s whether they succeed in meddling.
Thankfully, the process was well thought out and only federal judges are likely to have any real say on the commission’s work.
Nevertheless, expect to see more complaints from Republicans, who are keen to hang on to the power they’ve gained the past decade. Part of that power came via rapid growth in the early part of the decade in Maricopa and Pinal counties making moot most of what the first redistricting commission did, and the rise of political independents who blow with the political winds, which are currently blowing right.
Though only a little more than a third of state voters are registered Republicans, Republicans control all statewide elective offices, two thirds of legislative seats and have majorities in most of the state’s county boards of supervisors.
The commission is supposed to balance political power in the state, but though voter registration shows that it is in theory, in practice, Republicans have a firm grasp on the reins of power.
Redistricting was supposed to prevent this kind of one-party rule. The failure of last decade’s commission to prevent it should be well-considered by this decade’s commission, whoever it’s members may be.