It may seem like we’re harping. Perhaps preaching to the choir, or some other trite expression could summarize our frequent reminder of the significant work being done by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
At a meeting on Tuesday, commissioners approved a “grid map” of legislative districts based on the 2020 Census. This step in the redistricting process is required by the Arizona Constitution and involves establishing boundary lines based on balancing the population within each of the state’s nine congressional districts. The grid map does a near-perfect balancing act, establishing six of the districts at 794,611 residents and three at 794,612 residents.
Depending on your political persuasion, this balance is good or bad. Cochise County is divided in this version of redistricting, with Sierra Vista and the southwest portion of the county grouped with Nogales and the south side of Tucson. Most of the county, including points east of Douglas, north to Benson and east to San Simon, is grouped with seven other counties, stretching all the way to the Utah state line.
If you lean left, this configuration favors urban voting trends in south Tucson and Nogales. If you lean right, Sierra Vista’s traditional GOP voting majority is threatened. For the rest of Cochise County, meaning Douglas, Benson, Willcox and communities in-between, the sheer size of the proposed district would severely limit the influence this corner of the state would have on its congressional representative. The boundary of this district includes three sizable Native American reservations, along with substantial mining and agricultural operations.
Don’t get too excited, yet.
The IRC is quick to point out that the sole objective of its first step is to comply with the state Constitution and balance the congressional districts by population. It’s a starting point for an arduous process that will involve numerous public hearings and lots of public input.
Sierra Vista will host a satellite session Sept. 23 to start that hearing process. The “main” meeting will be in Scottsdale, with virtual input offered at satellite locations in Sierra Vista and Casa Grande. Residents will be offered the opportunity to give their opinions on why the grid map is either good or bad, and commissioners will get the chance to consider what should stay the same or change in the development of new maps. Information is available at redistricting-irc-az.hub.arcgis.com.
There’s still a long way to go in this process. Drawing nine congressional districts is easier than figuring out the boundary lines for the 30 districts represented in the State Legislature.
Those who contribute their opinions on what the IRC is doing will bring legitimate issues and concerns that are going to influence the final map. Whether Cochise County should be divided into two congressional districts will be a point of contention for many residents who see this corner of Arizona as sharing common interests and would like to see the county left “whole” as it is now within congressional District 2 and Legislative District 14.
Beyond the party politics of whether boundary lines favor Republicans or Democrats, the redistricting process is important to pay attention to, if for no other reason than to understand how your interests will be represented.