We should find out next week if Gov. Jan Brewer will make good on her threats from this week and impeach Colleen Mathis, the chairwoman of the Independent Redistricting Commission, or any other member of the commission. Brewer alleges gross misconduct by the commission, including failing to follow requirements of the independent redistricting commission act, bid rigging and open meetings law violations. Commissioners deny any wrongdoing.
Brewer is picking the wrong fight. The problem is not the commission, it’s Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act that requires Arizona to get the blessing of the U.S. Justice Department on any change it makes to voting districts, a process called preclearance. The Act’s intentions nearly 50 years ago was to right 100 years of wrongs in several states that imposed restrictions on voting by racial minorities, mostly southern blacks.
Arizona landed on the list of racist states in 1975 because a change in the act that year added so-called “language minorities” to the list of discriminations and required states to have bilingual ballots. Arizona created a bilingual ballot, but not fast enough to suit the federal government and so Arizona got lumped in with Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi and a couple of others as states that have violated the act and require federal supervision of their elections. And once a state is on the list it’s almost impossible to get off because it creates a political power structure that few politicians want to change.