Gov. Brewer had no right to remove chair of independent redistricting commission

Memorandum to Editorial Writers


Greg Rabidoux, (202) 736-5797

Gov. Brewer had no right to remove chair of independent redistricting commission

Common Cause is urging the reinstatement of reinstate Colleen Mathis as chairwoman of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC).

“Ms. Mathis’ dismissal was a mistake. The allegations of ‘gross misconduct’ levied by Gov. Jan Brewer and affirmed in the state Senate vote to remove her as commission chair are baseless and fueled by partisanship,” said Greg Rabidoux, Common Cause’s director for redistricting.

Eleven years ago, Arizona voters passed Proposition 106, which essentially took state lawmakers and the governor out of the state’s congressional and state and local legislative redistricting process. The initiative created the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AZ IRC), a non-partisan agency, and gave it authority to draw congressional and state and local legislative districts. Common Cause Arizona and grassroots and advocacy allies helped secure passage of this successful reform initiative.

Recently, the independent commission released a draft legislative redistricting map. State Republican leaders, led by Gov. Jan Brewer, criticized the draft map, not an uncommon development given the highly politicized and partisan nature of redistricting.

But Gov. Brewer went much further than just criticizing the process and the maps it produced. In an unprecedented step, she removed the chairwoman of the independent redistricting commission, Colleen Mathis, accusing Mathis of “gross misconduct” during her tenure as chair. Without hearings or any serious examination of this claim, as well as other allegations, a two-thirds majority in the state Senate, voting 21-6 along party lines, upheld this extreme and arguably, baseless removal process.

Mathis’ ouster puts the commission’s ability to complete the current redistricting in doubt and threatens its future. If allowed to stand, the actions of the governor and the Senate majority will send future commissioners a disquieting message: You are independent only in name. If you produce maps unacceptable to the party in power, you can expect to be tossed aside.

Common Cause strongly condemns Gov. Brewer’s actions. She has shown utter disregard for the wishes the voters expressed in creating the commission: that district lines be drawn without regard to partisan considerations and in a way that gives every voter a chance to elect the representatives of his or her choice. Common Cause agrees with the original bi-partisan drafters of Proposition 106 who have gone on record opposing Gov. Brewer’s actions, and decried those actions as a distortion of the original intent of the Proposition.

Gov. Brewer’s action is wrong for Arizonians and for Americans everywhere who no longer want politicians picking voters, but who believe citizens should be able to choose who will or will not represent them at the state and federal level.

CONTACT: Greg Rabidoux, Common Cause, Washington DC

202. 736. 5797