Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission op-ed by Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 22, 2011
CONTACT: Mike Philipsen

By State Senator Andy Biggs

When Arizonans voted to create the Independent Redistricting Commission in 2000, they likely expected they would get fair and transparent redistricting of legislative and congressional districts. Seeing how the current IRC led by Colleen Mathis is spinning out of control, even the IRC’s most rabid supporters must be disappointed.

The wobbly performance of the IRC began when Ms. Mathis sided with the Democrats and refused to let the Republicans on the IRC choose their own attorney! It continued when Ms. Mathis and the two Democrats on the IRC chose Strategic Telemetry to draw the maps of the new districts. Strategic Telemetry’s stated purpose is to elect “progressive” candidates. It’s understandable that people question that such a partisan firm will be able to put politics aside and draw fair districts.

That controversial decision was set up by the incompetent Commissioner José Herrera and Ms. Mathis. Herrera admitted publicly that he fudged the scores deliberately high for Strategic Telemetry. The fact that Strategic Telemetry was the most expensive bidder should have disqualified ST immediately. Instead, ST was allowed to lower its bid. The new bid was a smokescreen, however, because the IRC had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for ST’s special software and office space, which competing bidders already had.

Failure to adhere to the normal public bidding process and being co-opted by the Democrats has accelerated the erratic behavior of Chairman Mathis. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is investigating allegations Mathis violated open meeting laws. Mathis and Herrera say they will not cooperate with the investigation. Instead, they have hired two attorneys with taxpayer money to defend them in this investigation.

Additionally, I have sent a statutory request for information to the IRC but have been ignored. Since the original request more than a month ago I have made two additional requests and still haven’t received the requested information. Between thumbing their noses at the Attorney General and stonewalling the requests for information from the Legislature, it has the feel of a blatant cover-up.

If Ms. Mathis is unwilling to act in an “independent and impartial fashion”, as required by the Arizona Constitution, she should be removed. The bidding process for Strategic Telemetry needs to be reviewed to see if state laws were broken. Mathis and Herrera need to come clean on whether they violated open meeting laws. Mathis needs to order her attorneys to respond immediately to my request for information.

Arizonans approved the IRC believing we would have a fair and transparent redistricting process. Ms. Mathis and her Democratic cronies have proven to be obstructionist, unfair, and obstinate in their duties. It seems that Ms. Mathis and Commissioner Herrera have failed in their constitutional duties to uphold “public confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process.” Therefore they should be removed in the manner that the voters insisted should be a safeguard to the process of redistricting.

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Comments

  1. What manner would be followed to remove the commissioners?

  2. The Arizona Constitution allows the Governor to remove malfeasant Commissioners. What the exact process is, who knows, but the authority exists in the Arizona Constitution.

  3. Andy Biggs’ characterization that the AIRC is “spinning out of control” is baseless, except as a product of his own fantasy.

    THIS AIRC has demonstrated dramatically more transparent decisionmaking than the 2001 AIRC led by Steve Lynn and Lisa Hauser. During the 2001 AIRC, deliberations about map line decisions were often done in executive session which was actually unlawful.

    THIS year’s AIRC is at this moment conducting such deliberations publicly with all five commissioners having as much of a say as they’d like on the direction being given to the mapping consultant.

    Rick Stertz and Scott Freeman are both capable and have demonstrated such in making their perspective known and considered by the other commissioners.

    Further, Biggs’ overwhelming demands for copies of EVERYTHING put undue burden on staff and legal consultants, but his request for information/documents was fulfilled prior to publication of the op-ed posted on this page.

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