After the state’s Supreme Court decision to return Chairwoman Colleen Mathis to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission last week, Senator Al Melvin said it’s time for a special election.
Melvin, a Republican out of District 26, voted along with Gov. Jan Brewer on Nov. 1 to remove Mathis as chair of the redistricting commission. Mathis challenged the decision, and the Supreme Court sided with Democrats last week.
When asked about the ruling to overturn the Senate’s decision, Melvin said, “Surprised is putting it mildly.”
Now that Mathis will return to leading the board appointed with redrawing congressional and legislative district boundaries for the state, Melvin said the Senate will have to act quickly.
Melvin expects Brewer to call a special session where they could consider putting the entire issue on an election ballot. Melvin, along with several other Republican lawmakers, disagree with the initiative voters approved in 2000 that requires an independent commission to oversee how new district boundaries are drawn.
Proposition 106 amends the Arizona Constitution to create a five-member commission to redraw congressional and legislative boundaries. Previously, the State Legislature was responsible for redrawing the lines. Melvin believes the decisions should be returned to the state’s elected officials.
“This issue needs to be put before the people as a ballot measure,” he said. “The proposal would be to return (the redistricting process) to the legislature rather than one independent chairperson making all the decisions.”
The Senate will be working to put the measure on a ballot in February, which would be in time for the presidential primary elections.
Melvin couldn’t say how much a special election would cost, but noted that because the district boundaries are in place for 10 years, it would be worth the price.
Brewer, along with Republican lawmakers, have accused Mathis of “gross misconduct,” claiming members of the redistricting commission have broke open meeting laws.
Mathis is the lone Independent on the board, serving with two Democrats and two Republicans.
In last week’s ruling, The Supreme Court concluded that under Article 4, Part 2, Section 1(10) of the Arizona Constitution, Mathis does not demonstrate “substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of office.”
Brewer has asked the state’s highest court to not only explain the decision, but also to reconsider it.
By reinstating Mathis, Brewer said the Supreme Court has averted its eyes from the “commission’s misdeeds.”
“The clearest victim in this matter is a redistricting process that voters intended to be honest, impartial and transparent. In the coming days, I’ll be considering my options as to how best to proceed,” she said.
In a statement, Brewer called the decision, “deeply regrettable.”
Arizona Democrats are happy the state’s highest court intervened.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling was the ultimate check on power-hungry politicians who thought they answered to no one,” said Andrei Cherny, chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party. “These politicians had already lost in the court of public opinion, and (on Nov. 17), they lost in the court of law.”
While Brewer considers calling the special session as soon as this week, the public hearings for the two maps already proposed by the redistricting commission will continue.
The U.S. Department of Justice has final say over any maps proposed.
Redistricting the state’s legislative boundaries is required after the 2010 Census showed the Arizona gained a ninth congressional district. The state will continue to have 30 legislative districts, but boundaries will be redrawn.