Redistricting is a fight for First Peoples and People of Color #AZPowerGrab

Dominique Medina#AZPowerGrab

The leadership in the Senate wants to change the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (SCR 1034), potentially favoring one party. These changes primarily impact low-income people of color. By putting our communities’ voters into different districts, this initiative could potentially skew elections, unfairly precluding our indigenous tribal communities, small towns and people of color from electing people from their community to represent their values in government.

Specifically, legislators are proposing a rule that would put sharp limits on how much districts can vary in size. The 2{28335ed37dd724deee500aa029442e0d9d58206d63320e844ba7e9fe720a29c1} deviation rule that legislators have proposed will have devastating effects across the state. Under our current independent redistricting commission, the district where the Navajo Nation has elected several community members to office has an 8.6{28335ed37dd724deee500aa029442e0d9d58206d63320e844ba7e9fe720a29c1} deviation. If the 2{28335ed37dd724deee500aa029442e0d9d58206d63320e844ba7e9fe720a29c1} deviation rule is applied, those drawing our district lines may have no choice but to substantially alter districts where our communities vote and are elected from.

This issue threatens the victories we fought for; including the ability to elect Native Americans in predominantly indigenous districts, women, and people of color to public office.

State Representative Wenona Benally said in a recent press statement: “The proposed changes to the way districts are drawn would undermine the electoral power of the Navajo Nation, as well as other rural communities and Native American communities across the state. I’m deeply frustrated by the way the Senate President and his fellow Republicans have rushed through these changes, running the risk of creating a deeply skewed and unfair system.”

With an already heavily stacked legislative agenda, our Republican leadership in the legislature thinks they can sneak this change. Our community must be aware of the impact made in re-shaping the Independent Redistricting Commission. Influencing the commission means altering the outcome of future elections.

Some argue that if the lines are drawn that way, we can seek a legal remedy in civil rights court. They say, “If it comes to it, I know we will win that fight.”

The truth is our communities cannot afford to wait for the courts to act for our values represented at the capitol.

When gerrymandering comes to your backyard

I wonder what your backyard would look like if you allowed your neighbor to redraw the boundaries of the backyards on your block? That new pool he’s wanted to build will be bigger than first planned…a whole lot bigger. Will you or your neighbors have any backyard left all?

Voters should be able to choose their legislators — legislators shouldn’t be able to choose their voters. That is why we voted to have this independent commission in the first place. In 2000, the Arizona voters spoke: they wanted an independent commission to draw the voting districts, ensuring free and open elections.

The Supreme Court of the United States also had its say. Speaking through Justice Ginsburg, the opinion of the court stated that the creation of the independent commission was “an endeavor by Arizona voters to address the problem of partisan gerrymandering — the drawing of legislative district lines to subordinate adherents of one political party and entrench a rival party in power.” The voters have the power and legislators have to listen. It doesn’t work the other way around.

Arizona redistricting gerrymandering illustrtion

Independents, Republicans and Democrats have an almost equal voter registration tally in Arizona. SCR1034 will further marginalize First Peoples and people of color.

This is another clear example of an Arizona political power grab. This overt attempt to seize power will leave low-income, minority groups under-represented at the capitol.

In a desperate power-grab attempt, this initiative has the potential to shape Arizona politics for years to come. Using the power vested in them by the Arizona people, this group of legislators are bypassing the will of the people and the Supreme Court.

Changing the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is a clear attempt to keep certain citizens from voting. As motivation to cast ballots in November runs high, many may be displaced, and excluded from this nation’s most important civic duty – voting.

The people have already spoken. They chose an independent commission to ensure fair districts. The Supreme Court has also vindicated the power of Arizona voters in the courts. Any attempt to undercut the will of the voters is a clear attempt to stop motivated low-income, minority voters in November.