Election officials from around the state are lining up to oppose a bid by a Republican-backed group to get a court to force new lines to be drawn for this year’s legislative elections. Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne, who is leading the charge, filed legal papers late Wednesday to intervene in the federal court lawsuit. The county’s position is a panel of judges being convened to look at the work of the Independent Redistricting Commission should keep its hands off the lines, at least for the time being. Osborne said the issue has nothing to do with politics. She said it does not matter to her who runs for the Legislature and where their districts are. And Osborne said she takes no position on the charge by critics of the commission that the maps are biased against Republicans. The problem, she said, is timing.
Osborne said Maricopa County just finished redrawing its 1,142 voting precincts down to 724 because the prevalence of early voting made the large number of polling places unnecessary, a process that is cumbersome and needs to be coordinated with legislative district lines. Osborne said candidate petitions are due May 30. And the Secretary of State’s Office reports 15 legislative candidates already have filed nominating papers. The lawsuit charges the five-member commission “systematically overpopulated Republican-plurality districts and underpopulated Democrat-plurality districts” to create more districts where Democrats would stand a better chance of electing one of their own.
There likely is not enough time for a court to review the charges, reach a conclusion and have the commission redraw the lines. So the challengers have invoked a procedure that allows a panel of three judges to draw their own lines if they find problems – usually with the help of a special consultant. That’s what was done a decade ago, with the court approving special lines for the 2002 race and the commission coming up with a new map for 2004 through 2010. But this lawsuit was filed later than the one in 2002.
Full Article: Election officials oppose redrawing districts.