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Redistricting commission hopes to act quickly on staff while it awaits Census data

By: - February 2, 2021 4:19 pm
Arizona redistricting flag

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The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission wants to move quickly in hiring the staff and legal counsel it needs before it can get down to the business of drawing new congressional and legislative districts, though that may leave the panel in a prolonged holding panel as it waits for delayed data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Census data isn’t expected to be available until the end of July at the earliest. In the meantime, the commission used its third meeting on Tuesday to sort out administrative and ministerial issues that it must deal with before its real work begins.

First and foremost, the commission needs to hire an executive director, along with an administrative assistant and attorneys. For now, the Arizona Department of Administration is handling staff duties for the AIRC. But Andy Tobin, the agency’s director, warned that ADOA is already overtaxed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and suggested that the commission act quickly to hire staff.

The commission voted to direct ADOA to work on job descriptions for those positions, which it will review at its meeting next week. Democratic Commissioner Shereen Lerner suggested the commission could hire an executive director within a month to six weeks. In 2011, the last AIRC hired its executive director in mid-April, and hired legal counsel about a month later.

On the issue of legal counsel, the commission favored the approach taken by its two predecessors — one Democratic lawyer and one Republican lawyer who will work together to advise the AIRC. The commissioners agreed that they also need law firms with expertise in election law and the ability to handle major litigation, should the need arise.

An official with the U.S. Census Bureau warned last week that the data state and local governments need for redistricting won’t be available until at least July 30, meaning early August would be the soonest that the IRC could begin its mapping work in earnest.

Republican Commissioner David Mehl said there’s still no time to waste when it comes to making key hires.

“Even though it seems like we have a lot of time, it’s going to be amazing how quick all this goes,” he said.

Mehl also said there’s enough estimated Census data in place for the AIRC to do some preliminary mapping work once its team is in place.

The commission also voted to standardize its meeting schedule. The panel will meet on Tuesdays at 9 a.m., with meetings expected to last about three hours. Most meetings will be held virtually for the foreseeable future due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, though commissioners suggested that it would be better for them to meet in person when making major decisions, such as hiring staff.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”