‘Five to Nine’ Initiative to expand the AIRC

I can’t recall that I have ever agreed with a position taken by former state legislator Doug Quelland (the”Q”), but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The Republic’s Laurie Roberts today writes about the Q’s “Five to Nine” initiative to expand the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) from five members to nine members. This is a marked departure from our Tea-Publican legislators filing lawsuits seeking to abolish the AIRC in recent years. Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is on the U.S. Supreme Court docket this term.

AIRCAfter the Tea-Publicans’ vitriolic defamation of  AIRC Chair, independent Colleen Mathis, whom the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona Senate unconstitutionally tried to remove from office, the one “independent” on the AIRC should not have to subjected to such partisan abuse. Nor should one “independent” constitute the swing vote to either of the two major political parties.

Roberts writes, A simple way to reform redistricting:

A former Republican legislator has come up with a genius idea for how to fix what ails the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

OK, so maybe it’s not a genius idea, exactly, but it’s a pretty good one, given that the current system is a slap in the face to the largest segment of Arizona voters.

First reason it seems like a good idea: The Republican Party, which controls most everything in this state, won’t like it.

Second reason it seems like a good idea: Neither will the Democratic Party, which managed to outmaneuver Republicans when it came to redrawing congressional and legislative maps for this decade.

Third reason: It gives a fair shake to independent voters.

And so comes former Republican-turned-independent Doug Quelland’s almost-genius idea: He wants to expand the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Currently, the five-member panel contains two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent chair, who is selected by the other four. Basically, that chairperson controls the entire process as he (or she) serves as a tiebreaker.

Quelland proposes a nine-member commission, with three Republicans, three Democrats and three independents. The chair would be selected from whichever group dominates the voting rolls. (Currently, that would be an independent.)

I find this provision unnecessary. With nine members, the chair should be whomever receives a majority of 5 votes. Given the partisan nature of redistricting, this will invariably result in one of the three “independents” being elected in any event. It should not be based on a numerical formula of voter registration.

On Thursday, he says he plans to file his proposed amendment to the state constitution, asking voters to expand the commission. While it’s a good idea, it’s also a tall order given that he has no financial backing and no network of support.

Quelland would need 225,963 valid signatures to get his proposal onto the 2016 ballot. Add in another 60,000 signatures as a cushion and it all translates into an almost unsurmountable challenge.

Almost, I say, because it is a good idea.

* * *

Quelland, who served in Legislature for seven years before being tossed out for exceeding Clean Elections spending limits, says he’ll be filing his constitutional amendment with the Secretary of State’s Office at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

“This is something that, if I can get the word out, it’ll travel like wildfire,” he told me. “It’s something people across the state will be interested in.”

It’s certainly something that people across the state should be interested in.

Well there you go “Q,” I just put the word out for you.

One response to “‘Five to Nine’ Initiative to expand the AIRC

  1. The concept seems reasonable, IF the two points — increase the number of commissioners and have three of each — are the only substantive changes it would make.

    Whether or not Q could gather enough signatures is a definite uncertainty.

    I think he overestimates the zeal with which people will embrace his measure.