KINGMAN - Kingman area residents had plenty of questions about the redistricting process for Mohave County Elections Director Alan Tempert Friday night. One of a handful of meetings the department is holding around the county to explain the process and gather suggestions. The hottest topic was whether rural residents would get a supervisor district or two of their own in 2012.
Golden Valley Resident Susan Bayer was one of several residents who asked if a rural district could be created for the Board of Supervisors. The balance of power on the Board currently rests with the three major cities in the county, she said. Rural residents, especially those living in Golden Valley, feel like their concerns are being ignored or denied.
If at least one rural district couldn't be formed, Bayer suggested splitting the three cities into two voting districts, so supervisors would have to listen to residents from both rural and urban areas, she said.
Mohave County Resident Denise Bensusan also lobbied for either a rural or rural/urban split for supervisor districts.
"This has been a serious problem, too many supervisors have been more concerned about what the cities want," she said. "This should be done right this time."
Tempert said splitting up supervisor districts between urban and rural areas or creating one or more rural districts was a possibility, if that's what people wanted. He warned that the group would meet opposition from other people who believed that communities, such as the three cities, should be placed in a voting district to protect their interests.
The whole point of the public meetings was to not only explain the redistricting process but to also get public input on what the districts should look like and try to fit what the public wanted within the U.S. Department of Justice restrictions, Tempert said.
Getting approval for the new plans from the DOJ will be the hardest part of redistricting the county this year, he said. The DOJ is in charge of federal voting laws and Arizona is one of 10 states, 14 counties and 12 townships that must submit all of their redistricting plans to the DOJ to make sure that minority populations have an equal chance of getting their voice heard.
Mohave County didn't have this problem in 2000 because the population of minorities in the county did not pass the DOJ's concern threshold, he said. Since 2000, the county's population has increased from 155,032 to 200,186 and the Hispanic population of the county has nearly doubled, especially in the Bullhead City area, from 3,238 to 5,145, putting the county on the DOJ's watch list, Tempert said.
The county has to be careful not to dilute the number of minorities in a voting district while trying to meet another requirement from the DOJ that all voting districts have nearly the same population, he said. The county has to meet these requirements not only for the Board of Supervisors district plan but also for three other district plans, the Mohave Community College Board, the justices of the peace and the Joint Technical Education District Board. In order to make sure the county meets all DOJ requirements for all of the voting plans, it hired Federal Compliance Consulting of Potomac, Md., and Research Advisory Services of Phoenix.
A resident asked if the census numbers included illegal immigrants.
Sissons said it was possible that some illegal immigrants had been counted in the census. The census does not ask a person their citizenship. It is only interested in counting how many people are in an area, he said. That population count includes not only those people of voting age but also those who may not be able to vote.
Sissons also demonstrated a mapping system the department will introduce on its website sometime this week. The system allows residents to play with creating voting districts themselves. The program uses precincts as its base level of measurement.
Residents logged into the system can move the precincts from one district to another to create a new voting district map, save the map and send it to the department.
The program also displays a running total of district population, voter population and minority populations.
For more information on redistricting, visit www.co.mohave.az.us, click on the "departments" tab, then on "elections" and then on "redistricting.