PHOENIX (AP) – ArizonaOn Wednesday, the independent constituency redistribution commission unanimously approved new boundaries for congressional districts that are likely to move the state’s congressional delegation in favor of Republicans.
The new borders create four strong Republican districts, two where Democrats are likely to dominate and three that could be relatively competitive, based on the metrics the commission uses to measure competitiveness. Among the potentially competitive districts, one is strongly in favor of Democrats and two lean towards Republicans based on their voting habits in the previous nine elections.
Arizona’s congressional delegation currently consists of five Democrats and four Republicans. The likelihood of Democrats losing ground in Arizona further complicates the party’s gloomy outlook for next year’s midterm election, when control of the US House is on the line.
“This is not the map that I would have liked,” said Democratic Commissioner Shereen Lerner, saying the two competitive districts could have been more balanced. But she said the final limits have improved over previous versions and expressed hope that the situation will improve over the next decade the cards are in effect.
Republican Commissioner Doug York said an earlier project was better for the GOP, and credited the commission with approving a card that was not favored by either side.
The commission also passed new boundaries for Arizona’s 30 legislative districts in a 3: 2 vote after Independent President Erika Newberg sided with the Republican commissioners. The legislative map includes four competitive districts in the northern and eastern parts of the Phoenix metro area.
Lerner tried unsuccessfully to modify a competitive North Valley district to reduce his Republican leanings before the final vote.
On the new congressional map, the districts currently represented by Democrats Tom O’Halleran and Ann Kirkpatrick – the two most competitive in the state under existing boundaries – have moved in favor of Republicans. The new boundaries of the rural O’Halleran district tilt him sharply towards Republicans, casting serious doubt on his prospects for re-election.
Kirkpatrick has already announced his intention to retire. The new district boundaries for the region it represents include eastern Tucson, Casa Grande, and most of southeastern Arizona.
Much of the area now represented by Republican David Schweikert is likely to become the most competitive district in the state. The new boundaries include Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, parts of North Phoenix, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community, and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.
The regions now represented by Schweikert and Kirkpatrick will be the two battlefield districts of the state. An East Valley district comprising Tempe, Mesa, Ahwatukee and part of Chandler is considered marginally competitive by commission parameters, although voters elected Democrats there in eight of the nine races analyzed by the commission.
The redistribution panel is made up of two Republicans, two Democrats, and Independent President Erika Neuberg, who has primarily backed the Republican-friendly versions of the cards during much of recent deliberations. Redistribution is required every 10 years under the United States Constitution to accommodate population changes across the country.
Eric Holder, the former US attorney general to Democratic President Barack Obama, said Tuesday evening that the cards could lead to a trial.
“The president has a duty to ensure a fair process and not to side with the Republicans or to promote a partisan agenda,” Holder, who leads Democrats’ efforts to influence the country’s redistribution, wrote on Twitter. “Anything that is not fair cards will be called into question.”
Maps drawn by Arizona redistribution commissions based on the 2000 and 2010 censuses have both been challenged in court.
The voter-created redistribution law, which abolished the post of the Legislative Assembly and was supposed to limit partisanship, states that commissioners should draw compact and contiguous constituencies, comply with the U.S. Constitution and the voting rights and respect communities of interest and the city, counties or geographic lines or features.
The commission adopted draft maps in late October, then held a month-long series of meetings across the state before starting its final round of meetings last week.
Republicans generally liked the district maps drawn after the 2000 census, and those made after the 2010 census were seen as more Democratic-friendly, drawing sharp criticism from Republicans.
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