City, county join appeal on new legislative map

PHOENIX – Kingman and Mohave County on Friday joined the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's appeal against the requirement to redraw legislative district boundaries.

Kingman and Mohave officials oppose Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields' order to make the districts more competitive between political parties, because the end result splits up the county into parts of two districts.

"The appeal is the quickest and best approach for Kingman to take," Kingman City Attorney Bob Taylor said.

"A separate suit for a new trial would be long and expensive."

The Arizona Minority Coalition for Fair Redistricting lawsuit that seeks more party-competitive district boundaries already has cost Arizona taxpayers nearly $3 million, Taylor said.

Kingman Mayor Lester Byram said the city and partners in Mohave County would continue to fight the issue as long as there is any chance to return representation to Kingman voters.

The new Legislative District 2 puts Kingman with the Navajo Nation and stretches from Nevada to New Mexico.

District 3 includes Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City and other rural areas such as Golden Valley, plus Flagstaff.

"We joined with all of Mohave County during two years of hearings after the 2000 Census and were successful in getting a district that included all of Mohave County," Byram said.

"We were still in good shape until Judge Fields' decision Jan.

16."

Kingman and Mohave County gave effective testimony at an appeal hearing April 15 and 16, but could not overcome the Independent Redistricting Commission's need for a seventh competitive district to meet Judge Kenneth Fields' mandate, Taylor said.

District 2 that includes Kingman and the Navajo now is the second-least competitive district in the alignment, heavily favoring Democrats, Taylor explained.

Among other things, state law calls for competition between political parties.

Taylor contends that the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) did not give proper consideration to the law's requirement for districts to represent communities of interest such as the county and the western area of Arizona.

The Minority Coalition has asked the U.S.

Justice Department to expedite the IRC approval process under the Voting Rights Act, in order to make the changes in Arizona legislative districts soon enough for the current election cycle.

Kingman will join the IRC in opposition to that process, hoping that the 2004 elections can take place with all of Mohave County in a single legislative district.

Byram said he and the majority of the Kingman City Council are prepared to fight the issue as long as it is feasible to make a change.

"If we lose, Kingman voters will be disenfranchised until after the 2010 U.

S.

Census," Byram said.