VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 44   | NOVEMBER 2 – 8, 2011


Senate gives IRC Chair Colleen Mathis the boot

Mathis failed to conduct the IRS’s business in open meetings and failed to adjust the grid map utilizing the goals set forth in the Constitution

COLLEEN MATHISPHOENIX – Late Tuesday, the state Senate voted 21-6 in favor of Governor Jan Brewer’s recommendation to remove Chair Colleen Mathis (l) from the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) for what Brewer claimed constituted “substantial neglect of duty and gross misconduct in office.”

Last week, Governor Jan Brewer issued a letter to each of the members of the IRC, stating she was exercising her constitutional authority and responsibility and that she was “duty bound to ensure Arizona’s redistricting process is constitutionally sound and worthy of the full faith and confidence of Arizona voters.”

Brewer accused the IRC of violating the constitutional requirement to utilize a grid-like pattern during the initial process of drawing congressional districts in Maricopa County, drawing draft congressional District 9 in Maricopa County using competitiveness as the primary factor, engaging in gerrymandering that disregards requirements to create compact and contiguous districts that respect communities of interest, and requiring three border districts as a goal.

She also accused the commission of violating open meeting laws by prearranging votes in order to manipulate the selection of its mapping consultant.

The governor requested that each member individually and independently provide a direct and thorough response by 8 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 31, including a signed declaration stating they “certify under penalty of perjury” their “response to all questions and requests are true and correct,” while stating their failure to respond would be taken as an admission.

Brewer accused commissioners of violating open meeting laws to discuss and prearrange a vote to award the IRC mapping consulting contract to Strategic Telemetry.

She also accused them of having other non-public conversations about awarding a perfect evaluation score to Strategic Telemetry during the procurement process to guarantee its selection.

govenor jan brewerBrewer (r) accused the IRC of abandoning the constitutional requirement to create districts in equal population in a grid-like pattern across the state and, in Maricopa County, the commission drew draft congressional District 9 improperly using competitiveness as the primary factor.

According to Brewer, the IRC’s draft congressional boundaries for District 1 and District 4 are not geographically compact, do not respect communities of interest and were not drawn using visible geographical features.

In a separate letter to IRC Chair Colleen Mathis, Brewer addressed her concerns about the draft map, which she said were so grave that she believed the IRC had not satisfied its duty to conduct this vital electoral activity in an honest, independent and impartial fashion, as required by the Arizona Constitution.

In pointing out how the IRC’s draft map does a disservice to Arizona because it fails to recognize the important and distinct rural population in Arizona and the respective communities of interest, Brewer stated, “For example, the proposed District 4 splices Lake Havasu and Bullhead City with the San Tan Valley and Florence in Pinal County and Fountain Hills in Maricopa County. This district is further combined with a severed Yuma County on the Colorado River. In addition, District 4 oddly veers in between proposed Districts 5 and 6, while District 1 veers toward Tucson.”

Despite the constitutional requirement for the IRC to use visible geographic features, city, town and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts when drawing district lines, Brewer said the IRC cut Yuma and Cochise counties in half, while it “disregarded other geographic features in proposing two sweeping and incongruous districts.”

Brewer called the IRC’s boundaries for Districts 1, 3, and 4 “patently tortured and spliced,” and requested the IRC to follow constitutional requirements to “properly address and represent the vital and distinct rural areas of Arizona.”

She said the IRC should produce a map that includes “two rural districts wholly outside of the metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson.”

 Accusing the IRC of violating the Arizona Constitution by elevating “competitiveness” above other goals, especially with respect its proposed District 9, which Brewer said abandoned the grid-like pattern requirement and resulted in the other districts in Maricopa County being drawn around District 9.

Brewer said the IRC’s disregard of constitutional requirements produced the erroneous outcome, which “ultimately left a gaping hole – now well known as the ‘donut hole’ – in the grid map for Maricopa County.”

In her letter to Mathis, Brewer wrote, “Finally, it appears that another factor behind the IRC's proposed map was the insistence on three districts touching the international border. While having greater exposure to border issues is of paramount importance to Arizona, requiring three border districts is not one of the constitutional criteria. To contort proposed District 1 to touch a sliver of the border at the expense of other constitutional criteria, including the severing of Cochise County and its community of interest, is improper.”

Brewer told Mathis, “The citizens of Arizona deserve better and expect the IRC to follow the straightforward constitutional requirements … Otherwise, the public will not have confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process.”

The commissioners and the commissioners’ Attorney Mary O’Grady submitted their responses early Monday.

O’Grady requested Brewer “participate no further in efforts to prevent the commission from completing its work and to end any consideration of removing any commissioners from office.”

While the governor has the authority to initiate removal proceedings against commissioners for “neglect of duty and gross misconduct,” according to O’Grady, Brewer’s failure to list specific allegations against individual commissioners falls short of constitutional requirements.

In her response, Mathis denied violating open meeting laws by contacting commissioners for the purpose of urging a unanimous vote and claimed she was only attempting to gain consensus on a mapping consultant as per state procurement rules.

She also disputed accusations by the two Republican commissioners, Scott Freeman and Richard Stertz, that she tried to convince them to vote in favor of awarding the consulting contract to Strategic Telemetry, a company that has strong “progressive” goals.

Meanwhile, the Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting unanimously concluded the IRC’s work does not meet constitutional requirements and asked that the full legislature to weigh in on the committee’s recommendation for the IRC to abandon its work and start the remapping process over.

On Tuesday, the special session of the Senate called for by Brewer for the purpose of voting to remove a member of the IRC, was called to session by Secretary of State Ken Bennett, as acting governor, because Brewer is in New York on a book tour.

In written correspondence to Mathis, Bennett wrote, “I have determined that you have failed to conduct the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission’s business in meetings open to the public, and failed to adjust the grid map as necessary to accommodate all of the goals set forth.”