Red or blue? – Fight for a fair redistribution in Arizona
(Top: clockwise from top left): Speaker at Ethnic Media Services briefing on September 22nd – Victoria Grijalva Ochoa, Redistricting Program Manager, One Arizona; Reginald Bolding, Co-Executive Director, Arizona Coalition for Change and Candidate for Secretary of State from AZ; Sandy Ochoa, Mi Familia Vota; Jennifer Chau, AZ AANHPI for Equity; Jaynie Parrish, Navajo County Democrat; and Andrea Varela, One Arizona Coalition / Rural Arizona Engagement. (Silicone / EMS)
Redistricting is the process by which the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), a legislature-appointed five-person body, redraws the boundaries for congressional and legislative districts to accommodate the demographic changes documented by the 2020 census.
How the IRC draws these lines could have important political ramifications.
In a state where Republicans have lost seats in the past decade and state voters have shifted from red to more balanced competition. As the Associated Press recently reported, the commission could continue this trend or make the difference by dividing populations and registered voters.
Between July 23rd and the end of August, the IRC held fifteen listening tours to solicit public opinion and created a grid map dividing the state’s 7.15 million residents into equal parts. As it prepares to develop more detailed draft maps, five public hearings are planned for additional public input. The draft map is due on October 27th and the final map is expected to be approved on December 22nd.
Speaker at Ethnic Media Services briefing on September 22nd – Victoria Grijalva Ochoa, Redistricting Program Manager, One Arizona; Reginald Bolding, Co-Executive Director, Arizona Coalition for Change and Candidate for Secretary of State from AZ; Sandy Ochoa, Mi Familia Vota; Jennifer Chau, AZ AANHPI for Equity; Jaynie Parrish, Navajo County Democrat; and Andrea Varela, One Arizona Coalition / Rural Arizona Engagement – represent a broad coalition of community organizations that advocate the equitable representation of all Arizonans, colored communities, and rural residents.
They shared their experiences, tried to attend the first round of hearings, highlighted the issues that are most important to their communities and outlined their calls for more transparency and accessibility through the Commission.
Victoria Ochoa of One Arizona gave an overview of Arizona’s increasingly diverse population and what kind of colored communities she sees at stake in redistribution.
“Like most people, Arizona has had a population growth of nearly 12 since 2010, and that population has been mostly driven by colored communities. Latinos now make up over 30 percent of the state’s population, the state’s black population grew over 30 percent, and Asian Americans are actually the fastest growing population here. With all the growth that is coming from our communities, it is absolutely vital that we are involved in this part of this process, that we are involved, and that we are continually asked for advice and feedback as the Commission is in a process of ours will affect the next 10 years, ”said Victoria.
“We still don’t see enough support or contact with colored communities,” Victoria stressed.
“You haven’t reached out to multilingual media to aid in this effort. In the first round there was a lack of coherence with translation and interpreting services. The Commission has had the opportunity to improve on this over the last time and yet it has not, it has made it worse – a week in advance for hearings that start at 4 p.m. on weekdays, which is impossible for most working people is to take part in it, ”said Victoria.
There was no way to virtually attend hearings without taking additional COVID precautions. The Commission’s virtual mapping tool is only available in English and no training materials were offered in other languages. To sum up, the commission did not do the work to make itself accessible, Victoria said.
Being able to raise funds for COVID vaccine sites or schools are all issues that are redistributive and will affect the next 10 years.
Commissioners don’t really think about how access to finance will affect color communities in the long run, Victoria concluded.
Reginald Bolding gave a perspective on the redistribution process taking advantage of Arizona’s growing African American population.
“We haven’t seen these meetings in African American communities. There are African Americans in the state of Arizona in all different counties, in all different cities. The city of Maricopa has the largest percentage of African American of any city, so it is extremely important to ensure that this voice is heard in the city of Maricopa.
“We are currently in the midst of the COVID pandemic and Delta variant, and that affects color communities on a broader level than other communities. In this scenario, it makes most sense to have as many options for voices as possible, such as virtual settings, ”said Bolding.
“I think the greatest opportunity for ethnic media is the educational process. In many of our communities, People of Color were the first to be laid off and the last to be reinstated when it came to COVID, economic stability is an issue for Communities of Color.
“The process of redistribution and who will represent us over the next 10 years has the opportunity to influence both our economic situation and our policies that directly affect the color communities,” said Bolding.
Sandy Ochoa said: “Redistribution is the next fight in the fight to protect our democracy. The redistribution of gerrymandering is an important part of the Conservatives’ plan to secure majorities in the House of Representatives and state legislatures for the next decade, regardless of what voters want. Mi Familia Vota fights these attacks in order to honor democracy.
Jennifer Chau said when she went to the Tucson public hearing, which was attended by about 200 people, only four were Asians, three or four blacks, three from the indigenous community, while 95 were white. The next meeting in Mesa, the next day, was a little better. There were more colored people, but still a handful of Asians.
“We need better contact with colored communities, translation services, and I believe the ethnic media would help, but at the end of the day the IRC should be better at contacting,” Chau said.
“Educating our community is really important when it comes to redistribution,” Chau said.
Their organization helped run a redistribution training in collaboration with AAPI vote and had about 49 people attending. It was kept over zoom.
Scoring a question – what is your knowledge of redistribution? – it was 0.8 on a 0-5 scale, in other words the Asian community barely knew anything.
Jaynie Parrish spoke to the Navajo County Democrats about the challenges of fairer redistribution for Arizona’s indigenous people.
Andrea Varela thought about what redistribution is, what effects it does, and how it engages or disengages rural Arizonans.