While we have been distracted by the incumbent president’s continuing acts of ignorance and outrage, another process important to our political health in Arizona has been underway. The selection process to select members for the 2021 Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has begun.

Arizona’s efforts to make this system work have served as a benchmark for other states trying to control political influences in the redistricting process.

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This article first appeared on Democrats of Greater Tucson.

The non-partisan Commission was established by a citizen-proposed initiative in 2000 to review and redraw electoral districts for the U.S. House of Representatives and the state Legislature. The idea was to remove the obviously partisan hands of the Legislature from redrawing these districts to favor the advantage of the party then in.

This approach for Arizona was particularly important as the state’s population had been growing rapidly. It continues to do so today. The membership of the Commission is balanced between the Democrats, Republicans with an independent Chairperson selected by the four partisan members

US Supreme Court upholds

The first Commission did its work following the 2000 census with relative ease. However, work following the 2010 census became politicized. This resulted in litigation at both the state and federal level, which finally resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the validity of the citizen initiative that established the Commission. The Court also upheld the validity of the process and resulting districts drawn by the Commission in the 2010 cycle for both state legislative districts and U.S. House districts.

Last month, 12 Democrats, 10 independents, and six Republicans from Pima County submitted applications before the August 20 deadline. The Commission on Appellate Courts Appointments is now winnowing a total list of 138 applicants (including the Pima County applicants) to a shortlist of 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and five independents. Legislative leaders of both parties will select two from each party.

The final four, so to speak, will choose an independent candidate from the panel of five, who will serve as the Commission Chair. Using the 2020 census data, the Commission will begin work on establishing new Congressional and Legislative districts “starting from scratch,” as the Commission’s mission statement says, rather than rejiggering existing districts.

Pima County Democrats still in the candidate pool as the separate Commission on Appellate Court Appointments continues its review are:

  • Martha M. Durkin, a retired attorney from Tucson and the Tucson Unified School District.
  • Dale L. Keyes, retired senior program manager at U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.
  • Robert P. Kovitz, who formerly worked on community action programs for Pima County.
  • Mark T. Murphy, a water research scientist previously on Environmental Protection Agency Advisory Board Panel.
  • Teresa D. Wyatt, former director of Children’s Clinics for Rehabilitative Services.

The Commission will interview them before a final list of 10 nominees from around the state is presented to Democratic Legislative leaders.

Congratulations, thanks, and best wishes to these Democrats as the selection process continues. More information on this process and the Commission’s work is available at the Commission’s Website: https://azredistricting.org/