Outreach problems plague Arizona’s redistribution efforts

NASHVILLE, TN – Arizona’s first round of public hearings ended on August 9th. A second listening tour with suggested voting grid maps was planned for five dates between September 21 and October 7 at 15 locations.

Arizona is one of six states that have an Independent Redistribution Commission (IRC). The other five are: California, Hawaii, Washington, Idaho, and New Jersey. Arizona is also one of 23 Trifecta states, like Tennessee, where one party has control of both the legislature and the governor’s office.

A major political difference between Arizona and Tennessee is the low electoral advantage of the GOP. For example, in the Arizona State Senate, the majority of Republicans are 16-14; in the house it is 31-29. In Tennessee, Republicans hold a 73-26 majority in the House of Representatives and a 27-6 majority in the Senate.

Fairly-drawn constituencies are vital for Arizona residents to vote for representatives who look like them and share their values. Suffrage activists say the organizers of the listening tour did not communicate with community partners about the meetings so they could inform their constituents of attendance.

“There was a lack of communication and attention, so dedicated volunteers had to get involved to fill in the gaps,” said Jaynie Parrish, Navajo County Democrats.

The 2020 census figures show Arizona’s population has increased by 759,485 people since 2010, an 11% increase. The population of Tennessee increased by 541,466 people, or 8.5%. No state will lose or win a congressional district.

Jaynie Parrish is the Democratic Executive Director in Navajo County. She is originally from Window Rock, Arizona.

The Listening Tour was organized by the IRC to receive public commentary to set new constituency boundaries. In a press release, Commission Chair Erika Neuberg urged all Arizonans to “attend one of these important hearings to ensure their voices are heard”. The meeting schedule looked fine on paper, but the IRC arranged virtual meetings that were later canceled.

For example, the virtual public hearing at Window Rock in Navajo Country was canceled at the last minute. Attending the face-to-face meeting was the only alternative.

Parrish said the virtual hearing for Navajo County was about 3½ hours from Show Low, where the face-to-face meeting was taking place.

“It’s a mostly white area,” she said.

“The security was intimidating. Talk about voter suppression. We have video and footage or our elders being defiled and patted by young white children who said they were hired by IRC and this is in the middle of the Navajo nation, ”Parrish said.

With this type of greeting, some of the Native Americans who had come to the meeting refused to go inside. Parrish said that some people were turned away and there was no Navajo translation for those who entered.

“It just comes down to attending a hearing that you haven’t heard about, that is not planned in your community and that is not scheduled at a time that is convenient for you,” said Victoria Grijalva Ochoa, Redistricting Program Manager, One Arizona .

In order for someone to propose a citizen-drawn district map, one also had to use the IRC’s online mapping

Victoria Grijalva Ochoa is Redistricting Program Manager, One Arizona. She grew up in the border town of Douglas, Arizona, and was the political manager for Mark Kelly’s successful bid in the US Senate special election last year.

“This tool is only available in English. No training materials were offered in additional languages ​​and even this tool is really difficult to access.

During that first round we heard that people had difficulty sending in a drawing of their own community of interest based on the Commission’s original tool, and now they have provided an even more difficult tool for people to learn and use their own cards to submit. “Said Ochoa.

Ochoa said people couldn’t submit a proposed card for their constituency only. They had to provide a nationwide map so that people unfamiliar with other parts of the state would have trouble.

She said the IRC did not reach out to her group or ask other community groups how they could work together. The public comment deadline has been short and grassroots organizers not only have the trust of their communities but also know how to reach them while the IRC does not.

African Americans make up 4.4% of Arizona’s population (297,107 people) and are dispersed across the state.

Reginald Bowling, the minority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives, said the IRC should have given more opportunities to voice minority opinions.

“We’re not allowing color communities to make their voices heard in virtual options about a redistribution process that will have decades of impact,” said Bowling.

Since the 2010 census, Arizona’s Hispanic population has grown by nearly 300,000, or 15.68%. Arizona is now 30.66% Hispanic, down from 29.65% in 2010.

“They didn’t go where they had to hold the meetings,” said Sandy Ochoa of Mi Familia Vota. Ochoa said the IRC has selected districts that do not have many colored people for the first round. “We felt it was a huge disadvantage for minorities,” she said.

Sandy Ochoa is the Tucson coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, a national civic engagement organization that promotes social and economic justice through citizen workshops, voter registration and voter participation.

Once the district maps are created, the local governments manage the Arizona district and local elections. Prisoners are considered to be residents of the place where they are detained.

Constituencies are not subject to scrutiny by the Secretary of State, the legislature or the governor. Arizona’s nine seats in the House of Representatives and the US Senate, which is currently held by Democrat Mark Kelly, are up for election in the 2022 elections.

Arizona’s other Democratic Senator, Kyrsten Sinema, and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin are against President Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion social safety net and climate change package. Both have said they will not vote to end the Senate filibuster rule.

The Arizona Democrats are threatening a vote of no confidence in Sinema for their unwavering support for the filibuster rule in the US Senate. A survey by Data for Progress earlier this year found that 61% of Arizona voters, including a large number of Republicans, were in favor of ending filibuster if that meant important bills could be passed.

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