We expect to hear more about redistricting starting today as Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission begins a series of statewide public hearings in Pinal County. The commission plans 15 “main location” meetings and 17 “satellite” meetings during the next 18 days to collect public input on changes to the boundary lines for state and federal districts.
Cochise County residents can have their voices heard Aug. 5 at a satellite meeting in the Board of Supervisors meeting room at the county complex on Melody Lane in Bisbee.
The intent of redistricting is to craft boundary lines that are representative of the communities of interest in an area and well-balanced to assure a competitive political process. Ideally, candidates will have to appeal to constituents who may have differing political beliefs to earn election to office.
That’s not what’s happened in Cochise County.
The predominance of Republicans and conservative-minded Independents have dominated the local landscape for a decade. The last Democrat from this area to win state office was Sierra Vista’s Patricia Fleming, who served as the District 25 Representative from 2009 to 2011. Since then – and since the last redistricting was completed – local electors have picked Republicans to represent District 14 in the state Legislature.
There are notable differences in the legislative boundaries for districts 25 and 14.
At the time when Ms. Fleming was elected, District 25 included most of Cochise County and extended west to include Nogales, all the way to the state line with California. The size of the district was massive and made it difficult for candidates to provide “face-to-face” representation of their constituents.
LD14 is much more compact by comparison, including all of Cochise and Greenlee counties and small areas in Graham and Pima counties.
What happens as a result of the current redistricting process has the potential to dramatically change the political characteristics of Cochise County. Based on existing political leanings, if boundary lines are redrawn to include Nogales or the southern section of Tucson, we could see an end to GOP dominance.
Population is also an important consideration in drawing the legislative districts. Simple math tells us the next legislative district will have to encompass more than just Cochise County if the AIRC hopes to achieve representative balance in the state. The county’s population is about 126,000 residents according to the 2018 Census.
The Legislature consists of 30 districts, each with two Representatives in the House and one Senator. Divide the number districts into the state’s population — about 7.4 million — and the number of residents in each district should be around 246,000. To achieve that number in this corner of Arizona will require significantly more than the population of Cochise County.
The Aug. 5 hearing in Bisbee will be the first round of public hearings hosted by the AIRC, and it will be conducted without the benefit of information from the 2020 Census, which isn’t expected until late September.
The hearing will offer local residents an insight into the redistricting process and an opportunity to express their primary concerns when it comes to representation at the state and federal levels.
Don’t miss it!