In 2000, Arizona voters wisely decided it was time to stop Legislative incumbents from drawing their own districts and unfairly guaranteeing their own re-election. We enacted an Independent Redistricting Committee to return that power to the people, ensuring that politicians have to work to earn our vote.
In 2011, on the day after Halloween, Governor Jan Brewer and legislative extremists decided it was time to subvert the public will and grab that power back into their partisan hands by removing the head of the IRC for supposed crimes against the State.
The special session she called to remove citizen volunteer Chair Colleen Mathis, a registered Independent, took only 75 minutes from start to finish. No evidence was presented and Mathis was not allowed to speak on her own behalf. No due process was followed, just a naked power grab.
What were Mathis’ alleged criminal acts? They boiled down to one: Rolling out a draft congressional map that a couple of the incumbent Republicans didn’t like. This map, which is only a draft currently out for public comment, proposes four Republican safe seats, two Democratic safe seats, and three competitive districts. The Congressmen wanted seven safe Republican seats.
The legislative draft map, created in part by Mathis, also favors Republicans, guaranteeing them at least half the seats for the next 10 years.
Democrats and Independents are not pleased at all with that artificial Republican advantage, but instead of illegally attacking the citizen volunteers of the IRC, they did what every other Arizonan has the right to do, they made their concerns known at one of the scores of public forums held by the IRC all over the state in recent weeks.
How did the legislative extremists justify their actions? They cited a clause stating that the Governor, and two-thirds of the Senate may vote to remove an IRC member for “gross misconduct.”
What gross misconduct did they uncover in this case? None. As Arizona Supreme Court Vice Chief Justice Andrew Hurwitz explained in a Nov. 23 order explaining their Nov. 17 order reinstating Mathis as chair, the governor’s accusations do not “as a matter of law, identify conduct that provides a constitutional basis for removal.”
Even after this clear ruling, Brewer and legislative extremists are still dreaming up partisan schemes to grab back redistricting power for themselves, including asking voters, at the Republican-only presidential primary in February, to let legislators draw their own districts yet again.
The people voted to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature in 2000 for good reason. We must demand that the governor and legislative leaders stop the partisan power grab, and submit to fair and independent districts in Arizona, especially now that the Arizona Supreme Court has spoken.
If you agree, please sign my petition to Keep Redistricting Independent, online at http://www.FriendsOFarley.com/keep_redistricting_independent
Steve Farley represents northside Tucson in the Arizona House of Representatives.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-926-3022.