BISBEE — The Cochise County Redistricting Advisory Commission determined the public’s input was needed before taking any action on new redistricting boundaries for the Board of Supervisors.
Census figures for 2020 showed an increase in population in the Sierra Vista area, but not enough to change the current boundaries in the three existing districts.
However, the city wants to incorporate Fort Huachuca and the west end of town, which is now in District 3. Sierra Vista mayor pro tempore Rachel Gray again asked the commissioners to consider the request as a matter of communities of interest.
It would cost District 1 the east and south sides of the city, which would then affect District 2 and District 3 boundaries. It would also split some voting precincts, said Sharon Gilman, associate county administrator.
“We don’t like to split precincts in the supervisors’ districts,” she said in a meeting Friday. “So, that’s one issue we would have to deal with, but it is possible.”
She also reported the team looked at the 18-and-older Hispanic population for D2.
“In the current map, D2 is a minority majority district. More than 50 percent of the population is Hispanic based on census numbers,” she said.
According to the figures of the existing boundaries, D1 has 5,959 Hispanics and 28,775 non–Hispanics. D2 has 16,286 Hispanics, 15,672 non–Hispanics. D3 has 7,422 Hispanics, 25,216 non–Hispanics.
Those numbers would change with the new district boundaries. D1 would have 7,031 Hispanics, 27,310 non–Hispanics. D2 would have 15,955 Hispanics, 15,640 non–Hispanics. D3 would have 6,681 Hispanics, 26,713 non–Hispanics.
“It could be problematic if you were to redraw the lines and remove the minority majority,” Gilman said. “We want to ensure the minority can still elect the candidate of their choice.”
Commissioner Elizabeth Bernstein, representing Bisbee, told the group she had done a little research and found D2 demographics on political parties showed 53% were Democrats and 47% were Republicans according to the results of the last election. She did not think the the new boundaries would alter the population much or if it did, the change would be around 1%.
Yvonne Mayer, representing D1, asked, “Why make any changes? There would be no real effect on D2, but it does split voting precincts. Definitely would like to avoid that. Why make a change if it isn’t going to be a significant change?”
Cheryl Glenn, representing D3 said, “One goal was to not split precincts. Now, we’re lopping off the east side of Sierra Vista and we’re creating this gerrymandering look on the east side. I think for the voters who were previously in D3 and D2, we would change their entire voting platform. I can’t see we’re really doing anything but satisfying Sierra Vista by taking a block they want and taking a block they don’t care about. I don’t see any beneficial change for anybody but Sierra Vista.”
Mayer said, “Incorporating the fort into Sierra Vista makes sense, but what we’re faced with is trying not to gerrymander the rest of the county.”
Bernstein noted there was no way to incorporate the fort and not give up other city territory.
Gray said, “It is Sierra Vista’s position that, yes, we would have to kind of tradeoff on some of the areas, but we are still maintaining the community of interest portion that is highly important to us when it comes to representation. We are the only city that was split into all three districts. So, you can see that’s problematic when it comes to representation.”
She said the “fort did not have proper representation by someone who understands the needs and issues that we face. I don’t see it as gerrymandering at all as far as the way it looks. The west end is actually the original portion of the city and is a high community of interest. This is not just about Sierra Vista, it’s about representation of a portion of the county that has no true representation because it is split so much.”
Pat Boyle, co-chairman representing D3, asked for a vote on bringing the new D1 maps to the public.
“I think this is the point where we let the community at large come in and speak on it,” he said.
When asked if a fourth district could be made, Gilman said no, as the county would need more people to meet the population threshold to add additional supervisors. Voters would have to approve such a change. Also, the number of supervisors has to be an odd number, which means there would have to be two more seats.
The county will have the two maps of the supervisors’ districts at the public meetings, so the community can compare them and offer opinions.
The possible changes to the voting precincts will also be ready for the public meetings, in case the commissioners do approve Sierra Vista’s request.
The district boundaries of Cochise College and the justice courts will be left as is.
The public meetings are scheduled for November throughout the county.
The redistricting maps discussed at the meeting are available for viewing on the county website: