BISBEE — Though the city of Sierra Vista would like to have the boundaries for Supervisor District 1 include Fort Huachuca, half of the Redistricting Advisory Commissioners did not want the changes it would bring to Districts 2 and 3.
At a meeting Friday, Sierra Vista Mayor Pro Tempore Rachel Gray explained the city council’s suggestion to include the fort in the proposed boundaries. District 1 would have 43,602 people, which is in line with the population limits. It would still leave the other districts with sufficient populations to meet the one person, one vote requirement.
Gray pointed out the fort and the city had more in common and made up a community of interest that should not be ignored.
“Currently, the Sierra Vista/Fort Huachuca community is the only community divided,” she said. “Sierra Vista/Fort Huachuca is the very definition of community of interest. We share a workforce, community services such as first responders, library services, refuse services, sports, as well as education, environmental, housing and economic interests. Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca have a mutual interest in water conservation for economic and environmental benefit. West End and Sierra Vista share revitalization and redevelopment projects. The fort also shares the watershed and our issues are closely aligned. We feel there should be one supervisor to represent the district.”
District 3, which did have the fort in its boundaries, would have to be altered and would lose the northeastern area of the county while gaining the area outside the fort south to the border with Mexico. It would include an area east of Sierra Vista to Yaqui Street. However, the RAC could be accused of gerrymandering as the new District 3 boundaries would encircle the proposed District 1.
“Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency to favor one political party or class,” said Sharon Gilman, associate county administrator. “We must avoid ‘packing,’ which is concentrating one party’s supporters into districts that they will win by overwhelming margins and ‘cracking,’ which divides a party’s supporters among multiple districts so that they fall short of a majority in each district.”
District 2 boundaries would be changed to include Bowie, San Simon, Dos Cabezas, Sunsites, Pearce and Sunizona and would cover most of the eastern portion of the county to the Mexican border. The new western boundary would include St. David, Dragoon, Hereford, Palominas, Naco, Bisbee, Douglas and Tombstone.
While the population numbers would be within the prescribed limit of 10% — District 1 at 43,536, District 2 at 40,015 and District 3 at 41,896 – the representatives of District 3 did not want to be separated from the Willcox area.
Representing Willcox on the RAC for District 3, Vice Mayor Tim Bowlby said, “Bowie and San Simon need to be a part of District 3 since they have more in common. And Tombstone should be with Benson.”
District 2 representative Elizabeth Bernstein said, “Hereford and Palominas are important to District 2. Let District 3 go to Tombstone and connect more with Benson.”
Frank Molina, District 2 representative, said, “It seems like a no-brainer to just leave things as they are.”
While the discussion was ongoing, county geographic information system manager Terry Couchenour developed another map that took into consideration the wishes of the four other commissioners and offered another option, which four of the commissioners approved. It was not publicly shown. It will be brought to the next meeting Oct. 15.
Gilman, associate county administrator, went over the schedule for the approval of the boundaries they decided upon and for public meetings in November. Public input helps identify communities of interest, and the public hearings will be held in different areas of the county to increase public participation. Mapping tools on the county website will be available for residents to propose district lines and draw their own maps.
“District boundaries for federal, state and local elected offices are redrawn to reflect new population data and shifting populations every 10 years with the census results,” she said. “Redrawing ensures equal voter representation and electoral districts that reflect each area’s diverse population. They must also be geographically contiguous, compact and maintain integrity of a city, community of interest. How and where district lines are drawn can shape a community’s ability to elect the representative of their choice.”
For information on the redistricting process and meetings, visit the county website at: https://www.cochise.az.gov/805/Redistricting-2021-2022.