Political parties get look at lines for new legislative districts

Phoenix, AZ – The Independent Redistricting Commission is required to come up with a plan that creates 30 districts of equal population, does not dilute minority voting strength, respects geographic boundaries and protects communities of interest. It's also is required to create as many politically competitive districts as possible, where a candidate from either party could get elected. The Democrats' Luis Heredia said that, given there are more Republicans and independents than Democrats, it's no surprise that a majority of the 30 districts were drawn to give the GOP the edge in voter registration. But he said the six competitive districts the commission says it has -- are really not.

(When you look at competitive districts that this map is proposing, they all lean heavily Republican by 5 percentage points. And what we're arguing is you can still preserve all the other constitutional criteria and give voters a choice.)

He said that some tweaking of the district lines would not only make these six more politically competitive but contends there actually could be at least four more districts where Democrats might actually have a chance. On the Republican side, state party spokesman Shane Whitfors was pleased the GOP would control so many districts for the next decade. But he had his own complaints about the map.

(It's clear that they've grouped conflicting communities of interest together. You've got mining communities with agricultural communities. You've got urban metropolitan communities now with rural communities. You're left bewildered how they gerrymandered the Southern Arizona districts.)

Whitfors questioned, for example, how the east side of Yuma could be part of a district that runs into Litchfield Park and why Bisbee and Douglas are linked politically to the south side of Tucson. He acknowledged that the goals of competitiveness, communities of interest and protecting minority voting strength can often conflict. But Whitfors said he still believes there was a better way to draw the lines. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.

optional announcer tag: There are a series of public hearings on both the legislative and congressional maps, including one at 6 tonight (eds: wednesday) at the Best Western Inn in Payson and the same time Thursday at Flagstaff City Hall.