After the 2012 election, it is evident that gerrymandering remains a grave concern for the democratic process in America.
Since 2000, redistricting duties in Arizona have been left in the hands of the Independent Redistricting Commission, which is currently in the midst of a lawsuit brought against it by the Arizona Legislature.
Ideally, the move to establish the commission was meant to keep partisan preferences out of the process of redrawing congressional district lines. However, evidence of this nonpartisanship has appeared to be dismal at best.
According to New York Times op-ed contributor Sam Wang, the worst culprits of gerrymandering last year included Arizona, along with Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Arizona was also the only state that had a “severe” imbalance in favor of Democrats.
As a registered Democrat, most would believe that I might favor these practices. However, I do not believe the commission is currently fulfilling its obligation to Arizonans.
The commission’s duty is to create districts that fairly represent the state, which has traditionally favored Republicans.
In several post-2012 election maps, Arizona was depicted as a “pink” state, rather than the solid “red” or “safe” title it might have had in prior election cycles. The new trend is a cause of concern for many state Republicans, who fear the state could eventually become “blue” because of redistricting.
After each census, the redistricting commission is responsible for drawing the boundaries of congressional districts to accommodate the changes in demographics over the previous 10 years.
A notable result of the redistricting after the 2010 census included Arizona’s 9th Congressional District, which includes all of Tempe and parts of Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler and the Ahwatukee neighborhood of Phoenix.
Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema claimed the new district last year by a narrow margin in a locale that used to primarily be Republican territory.
The change in party leadership may be attributed to an increase of Latino voters, who usually favor Democrats, in the Valley. However, state Republicans are right to start asking questions.
That takes us to the recent push to return the redistricting power to the state Legislature. Because of the commission’s discrepancies, Republicans want to strip all its power in the electoral process.
It is equally dangerous to the integrity of our state’s elections if we allow the state Legislature (the farthest thing from an outlet of nonpartisanship, considering that the Legislature was until last November ruled by a Republican supermajority) to regain control of redistricting. As Arizona’s voting demographics continue to change over the years, allowing the Republican-run Legislature to solely control redistricting may lead to unintentionally disenfranchising voters.
If state legislators were to be granted these powers, it should only be done under the condition of a committee composed equally of Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, that would present an obvious issue we have seen in Congress: nothing would get done.
Although it’s not a perfect system, redistricting should be left in the hands of independent organizations.
Time and time again, when left in the hands of partisan legislatures, districts are gerrymandered to favor the party currently in control and the rates at which incumbents win reelection are absurdly high.
Subsequently, the voters are silenced in a democratic system.
An independent commission is ideal for redistricting purposes, but it’s important that we need to find a way to reform the seemingly corrupt commission currently in control.
The commission needs to be dismissed, and Arizona should rebuild the board from the ground up.
New Jersey, Washington and Idaho have all successfully instilled an independent redistricting commission without favoring a party last election. It is possible for Arizona to do the same.
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