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Arizona at low risk of gerrymandering in 2022: report

By: - April 6, 2021 8:36 am
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In a new analysis of possible gerrymandering ahead of the 2022 elections, Arizona is just one of seven states that were deemed at “minimal risk” of winding up with a political map with clear partisan bias.

The report by RepresentUs, a non-partisan advocacy group focused on election reform, found that 35 states are at “high” or “extreme” risk of such maps, in which politicians effectively are able to choose their voters by crafting districts that favor them and their party.

Arizona earned high marks for tasking an independent redistricting panel — created when voters in 2000 amended the state constitution — with the job of creating and approving new maps every decade. And because the state has “strong open meetings rules” and requires all Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission meetings be conducted in public, our maps can’t be drawn in secret.

RepresentUs also praised Arizona for the constitutional requirements that guide the mapmaking, including building the map from a grid of areas of equal population — not the current map — and requiring that districts be as compact as possible and respectful of geographic boundaries.

However, Arizona was deemed to be at “high risk” of hypothetical “rigged election maps” that win approval from the AIRC being difficult to challenge in court. The situation is “a little muddy,” RepresentUs concluded, because there is no automatic court review and “it is not clear citizens have a right to challenge approved maps.” While recent redistricting challenges have focused on specific aspects of the map-creation process, none have challenged the maps themselves.

“This uncertainty raises the level of risk,” the report concluded.

Arizona joined California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan and Washington in the “minimal risk” category.

The states at “extreme risk” of gerrymandering include battleground states like Georgia, North Carolina and Wisconsin. 

Much of the gerrymandering possible in states where legislatures still draw political boundaries would be curtailed if a sweeping voting rights measure wins approval in the U.S. Senate. The bill, officially named H.R. 1 but known commonly as the For the People Act, would require states implement independent redistricting bodies that meet detailed criteria.

The legislation was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, but the Senate has not yet taken it up — and may not because it is certain to be filibustered by Republicans. Democratic opponents of the filibuster and progressive groups have said H.R. 1 is perhaps the most important legislation before Congress since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Senate should end the filibuster to ensure its passage.

However, several senators — including Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema — have said they are unwilling to change the Senate’s rules on the filibuster, which allow a senator to block any piece of legislation that doesn’t have 60 votes. With the Senate split 50-50 (and Democrats controlling the chamber because of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote), few measures are expected to clear that threshold.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.

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