It's time to face the facts: By any objective standard, the Independent Redistricting Commission has completely botched the job. Governor Brewer and the Senators should exercise their Constitutional duty and replace all of them.
Let's forget the blatant partisanship and open meeting violations and focus on one issue. The fundamental job of the IRC is to draw districts that fulfil the requirements of the Constitution. The proposed Congressional map clearly violates those requirements.
I've printed the full text of the requirements below, but here's a summary. The first two requirements are right out of federal law: The Districts must comply with the US Constitution and voting rights act and have roughly equal population. Then there are three requirements that were obviously written to prevent Gerrymandering: The Districts have to be geographically compact and contiguous; they have to respect communities of interest and they have to respect natural boundaries.
Then there's a sixth requirement that uses different wording. Here's the whole thing.
F. To the extent practicable, competitive districts should be favored where to do so would create no significant detriment to the other goals. (Emphasis added).
Here's your statutory interpretation question...does the 6th requirement have the same status as the other five, or does it have a lower priority? In the first version of this post, I argued that the 6th requirement was secondary. I still believe that and the lower courts agreed with my interpretation, but (as the first comment to this post pointed out) the state Supreme Court doesn't like that term. Here's what the Supreme Court said:
The direction that competitiveness should be favored unless one of two conditions occurs does not, contrary to the Commission’s assertion, mean that the competitiveness goal is less mandatory than the other goals, can be ignored, or should be relegated to a secondary role. The constitutional language means what it says: The Commission should favor creating more competitive districts to the extent practicable when doing so does not cause significant detriment to the other goals.
We can argue the semantics of whether the restrictions in the competitive district requirement render it "secondary" or not but one thing is clear. It's ok for districts to be compact and contiguous, respect comunities of interest and natural boundaries while NOT being competitive. However it's not OK to have competitive districts that sacrifice the other characteristics.
In other words, the Constitution says that the lines can't be Gerrymandered. They must be compact and contiguous, respect communities of interest and natural boundaries. They can also be competitive--if it doesn't cause significant detriment to with the other factors.
Significant detriment? These maps obliterate the other factors. These maps raise competitiveness to the primary factor and reduce the anti-gerrymandering factors to secondary factors. That's why the IRC put Fountain Hills in a district with Yuma and Kingman! It's why they put Flagstaff in a district with Benson. The districts have been gerrymandered in order to provide Democrats with a maximum number of winnable districts. That may sound fine and I may sound like I'm just whining, but I didn't write the standards. The constitution says that the IRC can't gerrymander the districts in order to make them competitive. Period.
Now what? Fortunately, the Constitution has a remedy:
After having been served written notice and provided with an opportunity for a response, a member of the independent redistricting commission may be removed by the governor, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the senate, for substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of office.
Well, when the IRC deprived Republicans of their own counsel, I didn't ask that they be removed. When they chose a partisan consultant I didn't ask that they be removed and when they blatantly deliberated in Executive Session, I didn't call for them to be removed. But now, they have violated the fundamental duty that they were required to fulfill. They were supposed to draw districts that weren't gerrymandered for partisan advantage. They have failed their fundamental mission--the districts aren't compact; they don't respect communities of interest and they don't respecting natural boundaries.
Gerrymandering the maps for partisan advantage is clearly a "substantial neglect of duty." (and the open meeting violations probably rise to "gross misconduct in office." The IRC has proven to be not only incompetent in the little things, but has also failed in its fundamental task.
Remove them all. Start over.
If there's not time for the new IRC Commissioners to draw new maps, then let the courts draw the 2012 maps and the new IRC will draw the 2014 maps.
The Governor and Senators have a Constitutional duty to ensure that the IRC follows the Constitutional Requirements. The IRC has blatantly ignored those requirements and the Governor and Senate have a rewponsiblity to fix the situation. Let's see if they have the courage to fulfil that responsibility.
Here is the exact wording of the 6 requirements.
A. Districts shall comply with the United States Constitution and the United States voting rights act;
B. Congressional districts shall have equal population to the extent practicable, and state legislative districts shall have equal population to the extent practicable;
C. Districts shall be geographically compact and contiguous to the extent practicable;
D. District boundaries shall respect communities of interest to the extent practicable;
E. To the extent practicable, district lines shall use visible geographic features, city, town and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts;
F. To the extent practicable, competitive districts should be favored where to do so would create no significant detriment to the other goals.