New Arizona district maps upcoming

ARIZONA - Arizona has a new congressional district map, and a new legislative district map is on the way.

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission received word on Monday that the U.S. Department of Justice has approved Arizona's new congressional district map. The commission is still awaiting word on the state's new legislative district map. The maps were submitted in February and the DOJ has until April 30 to act on the legislative map.

Controversy has plagued the construction of both maps. The commission is made up of two Republicans, two Democrats and one Independent, Commission Chair Colleen Mathis. Gov. Jan Brewer removed Mathis after allegations were made that she encouraged commission members to vote for a particular consulting firm, and that she failed to reveal her husband's ties to the Democratic Party on her application. Mathis was eventually re-instated to the commission by a state judge.

The Arizona Attorney General then started an investigation into the commission's actions, stating that it had violated the state's Open Meetings Laws.

The investigation and Mathis' fight to keep her seat ended up putting the commission over its budget in legal fees, which required it to ask the Legislature for additional funding.

At first, it appeared that the Legislature would not appropriate the funds. Then officials said they would only appropriate $1 to the commission. The Legislature finally relented after the commission started making noise about filing a lawsuit in order to get the expenses paid.

Republican lawmakers have also said that the commission abandoned the redistricting process and created maps that favor the Democrats and deliberately drew some districts so that some Republicans would have to run against each other.

There are currently two Senate bills moving through the House of Representatives. The first Senate Concurrent Resolution 1035 would give the power to redistrict the state back to the Legislature by asking voters to repeal Proposition 106.

Proposition 106 was passed by voters in 2000. It took the redistrict process out of the hands of the Legislature and created an independent commission made up of members from the public from both parties and an Independent voter to handle the process.

Another Senate bill moving through the House, SB 1489, would expand the commission's power to include redistricting all political districts for the state including local and county voting districts.

For additional information about the congressional-map submission, visit azredistricting.org.