This year’s election is critically important for the control of Congress, state legislatures and governorships because this is a census year, and next year begins the redistricting process. It is an opportunity for Democrats nationally to reverse the horrific gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts by the Republican Party’s REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project) after the disastrous 2010 “Tea Party” midterm election. ‘Gerrymandering On Steroids’: How Republicans Stacked The Nation’s Statehouses.
Following its unprecedented success in the last redistricting cycle in 2010, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) announced the launch of its major redistricting initiative, Right Lines 2020 last year. RSLC Launches Major Redistricting Initiative for 2019-2020 Election Cycle. The RSLC is hoping to meet a $125 million investment goal to get Republicans elected in down-ballot races. ‘This is a war’: Republicans ramp up bid to control election maps for next decade.
For Democrats, the DLCC is launching a $50 million “Flip Everything” campaign in preparation for the redistricting fight in key state legislative races. Democrats prepare to spend big to take control of 2021 redistricting. (Guys, that’s a $75 million advantage to the GOP).
Remember that the conservative Roberts Supreme Court last year essentially green-lighted partisan redistricting in Rucho v. Common Cause, holding that “Partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.” So the courts are not coming to our aid.
Arizona redistricts differently from many other states. Arizona voters enacted the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. During the last redistricting, you may recall that Governor Jan Brewer and legislative Republicans did everything in their power to undermine the AIRC, including Governor Brewer unconstitutionally trying to remove the independent chair of the AIRC. Numerous lawsuits were filed, and authoritarian Republicans lost every lawsuit, resulting in strengthening the AIRC as an independent institution.
But the GOP culture of corruption in Arizona has always played the long game. Republican Governor Doug Ducey has been laying the groundwork for years now to seize control of the AIRC redistricting process. I warned you in September of 2019, Governor Ducey has rigged the system for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission as well (excerpt):
Quoting from a Tim Steller opinion in the Arizona Daily Star:
The other part [of this scandal] is the makeup and performance of the little-known body that gives the governor a list of candidates to choose from: the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments.
Voters approved this merit system for selecting judges in November 1974, replacing the election of judges with panels who choose finalists picked from by the governor.
It took judges out of the dirty business of campaigning and allowed an independent, multi-partisan group to select the best candidates.
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The constitutional provision passed in 1974 says “The makeup of the committee shall, to the extent feasible, reflect the diversity of the population of the state” and it lays out restrictions on the number of attorneys, non-attorneys and people from any given county or party.
But as it is now, under Ducey, the commission has no Democrats. Not one, although they make up 31% of Arizona voters.
The commission has seven Republicans, five independents and Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, also a Republican, with three seats unfilled.
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The issue is not just the courts. The same commission that vets Supreme Court applicants also chooses the members of the Independent Redistricting Commission, which decides the state’s congressional and legislative districts.
The individual membership of that five-member body (two Democrats, two Republicans and one independent are required) can dictate the partisan makeup of the Legislature and congressional delegation.
So by manipulating the membership of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, Ducey is potentially protecting Republican seats and policy priorities through redistricting, as well as court decisions.
Governor Ducey is playing the long game to rig the system in favor of a minority political party to thwart the prospect of Democratic control of state government in the coming years. The fight over redistricting after the 2020 Census has already begun.
With this background, the Arizona Mirror reports that the Application process opens for redistricting commission:
The application process is now open for anyone hoping to serve on the next Independent Redistricting Commission, officially starting the process that will determine the boundaries of Arizona’s legislative and congressional districts for the next decade.
And with Republicans in firm control of the panel that vets those candidates, Democrats may find themselves on the opposite side of the redistricting process that they effectively controlled in 2011-12, much to the GOP’s consternation.
Applications for the redistricting commission’s five seats are due by Aug. 20. After that, the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will narrow down the list to 25 candidates: 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans and 5 independents.
Under a system approved by voters in 2000, Arizona’s legislative and congressional districts are drawn by an independent commission, instead of by the legislature, which had controlled the process in Arizona since statehood. The independent commission cannot have more than two members of any political party, which traditionally results in a panel composed of two Democrats, two Republicans and one independent, who serves as chair.
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives each choose one commissioner. Those four commissioners choose a fifth, who serves as chair.
But the potential commissioners are limited to the applicants approved by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. And Democrats are concerned that Gov. Doug Ducey has stacked the appellate commission to ensure an outcome favorable to his Republican Party.
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, whose primary duty is vetting applicants for the Arizona Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, cannot be composed entirely of one party. The 15-member commission is made up of 5 attorneys and 10 non-attorneys, all chosen by the governor, with the State Bar of Arizona providing input on the attorney candidates. No more than 5 non-attorney and 3 attorney members can be from the same political party, which traditionally has led to a mix of Democrats and Republicans, with a smattering of independents, regardless of which party controls the governor’s office.
Ducey, however, has found a way to avoid putting even a single Democrat on the commission, dividing the seats between Republicans and independents, some of whom have strong ties to the GOP. For example, one independent member, Kathryn Townsend, is a former Republican precinct committeewoman. Another, Laura Ciscomani, is married to one of Ducey’s aides.
The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments currently consists of seven Republicans and four independents, with four seats vacant.
Democrats argue that Ducey’s exclusion of their party from the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments violates a provision of the Arizona Constitution requiring the governor to “endeavor to see that the commission reflects the diversity of Arizona’s population.” There are no Democratic members, despite 31% of Arizona’s registered voters being Democrats. And Democrats also pointed out that commission has only one non-white member, though about 45% of Arizonans are non-white.
Whether Democrats will do anything about this remains to be seen. With the appointment process exclusively in the hands of Ducey and the Republican-controlled Senate, which must conform his appointments to the appellate commission, their only option appears to be litigation.
Senate Minority Leader David Bradley, D-Tucson, said he hasn’t been involved in any discussions about filing a lawsuit to challenge the composition of the appellate commission. Normally. that would have been a major focus of Democratic lawmakers during the 2020 legislative session, he said, but the COVID-19 crisis pushed it to the background.
“The announcing of things may get us refocused on the issue, I guess. So, I wouldn’t count it out at this point,” Bradley said.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, who has been perhaps the most vocal critic of the governor’s exclusion of Democrats from the appellate commission, said there has been talk in the past of going to court over the panel’s makeup, and that now may be a good time to “re-energize those talks.”
“As far as I know, I don’t think there’s a specific plan … right now. But that doesn’t mean that couldn’t come together pretty quickly. And I think we should start having those conversations right away,” Quezada said.
Due to the four vacancies, Ducey could still add some Democrats to the appellate commission before it selects redistricting candidates. The governor can appoint new members without Senate confirmation, though they can only serve for a year without legislative approval, which would be more than enough time for any new members to participate in vetting candidates for the redistricting commission.
Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for the governor, said the Ducey administration is reviewing candidates for the vacancies and that the governor will be making appointments soon. He would not say if any of those appointments will be Democrats or people of color.
The Arizona Democratic Party left open the possibility of litigation if Ducey doesn’t appoint some Democrats to the commission.
“The governor has a number of diverse, qualified applicants from which to choose. If the composition of the commission is not adequately changed to meet statutory requirements, then further action may be warranted,” party spokesman Matt Grodsky said.
Earlier this year, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel [a Republican appointed by Ducey] approved a new rule on the appellate commission that would keep secret some information about applicants for the redistricting commission, a decision that was challenged by news organizations, advocacy groups and others. Under the rule, comments about redistricting applicants that are submitted to the appellate commission by third parties would be kept secret, as would the identity of the person making the comments.
Last week, Brutinel reversed course, updating the rule so that third-party comments about applicants can be released publicly, though the appellate panel can still keep a commenter’s identity secret for “good cause.” Brutinel also scrapped provisions allowing commissioners to keep their personal notes and procedural emails between members of the panel confidential, though commissioners will be permitted to discard their personal notes once they’re no longer needed.
If a Republican-dominated appellate commission, sans Democrats, vets candidates for the next Independent Redistricting Commission, it could ensure GOP-friendly legislative and congressional maps for the next decade.
The commission could ensure that candidates for the independent chair, who would serve as the all-important tiebreaker between the two Democrats and two Republicans, leans toward the GOP. A pro-Republican appellate commission could also force Democratic legislative leaders to choose from a list of Democratic candidates that they consider unacceptable.
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Due to its population growth over the past decade, Arizona is widely expected to gain a 10th congressional district following the 2020 Census.
The practical effects of Ducey’s control over the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments haven’t been limited to redistricting. After the commission declined to select then-Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, a longtime ally of the governor, as a finalist for an Arizona Supreme Court vacancy, Ducey replaced some of Montgomery’s opponents on the panel. With the replacement commissioners in place, the panel last year included Mongtomery on the list of finalists for the next vacancy on the high court, and Ducey selected him from among seven candidates for the seat.
Applicants for the Independent Redistricting Commission must have been registered under the same political party, or lack thereof for independents, for at least the past three years. They cannot have run for, been electected to or been appointed to any elective office except a school board for the preceding three years, a prohibition that extends to party precinct committeemen. Applicants also cannot have served as an officer for a political party or on a political candidate’s campaign committee during that period, and they cannot have been registered as a lobbyist during that time.
No more than two members of the same political party can serve on the IRC, and no more than two members can be from the same county.
Applications are available on the Arizona judiciary’s website.
The application process is opening a bit earlier than it did 10 years ago. In 2010, the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments didn’t begin accepting redistricting applications until mid-September.
UPDATE: Tokenism isn’t going to make the Commission on Appellate Appointments fair or any less rigged in favor of Republicans. Ducey appoints new members, including Dems, to key nominating commission:
The Arizona Constitution states that the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments must reflect “the diversity of Arizona’s population.” It clearly does not.
Ducey at least partially remedied that situation on Friday when he named six new members to the commission:
- Ammon Barker, a Democrat from Coconino County
- Jaime Chamberlain, a Republican from Santa Cruz County
- Daniel Seiden, a Republican from Maricopa County
- Kevin Taylor, a Democrat from Pinal County
- Tina Vannucci, an independent from Pinal County
- James Zieler, a Democrat from Apache County
The 15-member commission consists of 10 non-attorney members and 5 attorneys. Chamberlain, Taylor and Zeiler are non-attorneys, while Barker, Seiden and Vannucci are attorneys.
Now, the commission has three Democratic members. And while it previously had only one non-white member, Ducey added two others with the appointments of Taylor, who is Black, and Chamberlain, who is Latino.
The Arizona Democratic Party was pleased that Ducey appointed three Democrats to the commission, but said a 15-member panel with only 3 people of color “is still sorely lacking diversity.” The commission is 80% white, while Latinos make up nearly 32% of the state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Considering one of the positions filled has been vacant since 2017 and the two others have been open since 2019, Gov. Ducey’s first step towards compliance with the law is too little, too late,” Matt Grodsky, a spokesman for the Arizona Democratic Party, said in a written statement. “While we are happy to finally see Democrats added to the commission, the Governor must ensure that the commission reflects Arizona’s diverse population.”
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, who has been perhaps the most outspoken critic of Ducey’s appointments to the commission, said he was pleased to see some Democrats and Black and Brown people appointed to the commission. And the presence of Democrats will have a positive effect on the redistricting process, he said.
But Quezada said the new appointments aren’t’ enough to overcome Ducey’s “stacking” of the commission. He suggested that Ducey may have made those appointments to head off a potential lawsuit over the composition of the commission.
“Their inclusion is important,” Quezada said of the three Democrats. “It’s definitely needed. But I think that you look at the numbers of the commission as a whole… they’re still drastically outnumbered. So, it’s still a problem.”
Democrats make up 31% of Arizona’s registered voters and are now 20% of the commission’s members.