The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) is responsible for drawing both congressional and state legislative district lines. The commission is composed of five members. Of these, four are selected by the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the state legislature. The four commission members appointed by legislative leaders (two Republicans and two Democrats) then select the fifth member to round out the commission. The fifth member of the commission must belong to a different political party than the other commissioners. The Arizona State Legislature may make recommendations to the commission, but ultimate authority is vested with the commission.
The Arizona Constitution requires that both congressional and state legislative districts be “contiguous, geographically compact, and respect communities of interest–all to the extent practicable.” The state constitution further mandates that district lines “should [follow] visible geographic features, city, town, and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts.” In addition, the constitution requires that “competitive districts be favored where doing so would not significantly detract from the goals above.”
After the 2020 United States Census, Arizona was apportioned nine congressional districts, which was unchanged from the number after the 2010 Census. On January 24, 2022, Arizona enacted its new congressional map after a unanimous AIRC vote.
Community of Interest Story
While the AIRC included a Native American commissioner, Native Americans lost political power in this round of redistricting. In 2011, the AIRC drew a state legislative district, District 7, expressly to empower Native American voters. In 2021, the AIRC did not need to comply with longstanding Department of Justice “preclearance” requirements after a landmark provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was dismantled by a conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 (Shelby County v. Holder).
The new district, while keeping the same tribal areas together as in 2011, was redrawn without being grouped with Latinx people and other communities that have similar candidates of choice. This leaves Native voters in the state with a near guarantee that a bolstered white majority will overpower them for the next decade.
Overall State Grade: B-
- The AIRC encouraged public participation: Despite the pandemic, the AIRC conducted a 17-day tour with 15 public hearings.11 In addition to public hearings, the AIRC gave the public options to give written and online testimonies. According to the Community of Interest Report created by the AIRC, there were 910 public submissions. The public can access the submissions and how they overlap on maps using the AIRC’s tools found on their website.
- Increased participation from advocacy groups made a difference: There was an increased effort to build coalitions and advocate for fair maps. Those engaged with coalitions believed that their efforts had an impact on final maps. However, not all good government groups were engaged in the coalitions that were established, and the AIRC did not take all the recommendations on how best to decrease barriers for community participation.
- Coalition building should continue: Coalitions must also engage local organizations representing diverse communities as well as state-wide organizations. Wins for low-income communities and communities of color are attainable when communities build power together.
- The AIRC should lower barriers for low-income and immigrant communities to participate: This can be accomplished by ensuring language access, especially for Spanish-speaking communities, providing more user-friendly mapping tools, holding meetings in more centralized locations, and creating an easier-to-navigate website.
- Create guardrails that ensure that the AIRC is truly independent from partisan politics: The AIRC must evolve: this may include increasing the number of commissioners, creating a selection process that does not involve the state legislature, and/or drafting policies that allow redistricting matters to only be discussed in public.