IRC Chair’s failure to produce Constitutional maps meant Governor had little choice but to remove he
Statement by Arizona Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce.
Governor Brewer determined last night that Independent Redistricting Commission Chair Colleen Mathis committed gross misconduct in office, and the State Senate concurred in an overwhelming vote to approve Mathis’ removal from office. The decision to remove Ms. Mathis followed overwhelming evidence that she led a commission that failed at its one core mission: to produce Constitutional maps.
The Arizona Constitution provides for the Legislature to comment on draft maps submitted by the IRC. The Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting was formed and I co-chaired the committee with Representative Jim Weiers. The committee was made up of four Republicans and two Democrats.
Over seven days, we heard from the public. They came from all over the state, places such as Yuma, Colorado City and Bisbee. Speaker after speaker told us how they felt the IRC had let them down. They gave clear reasons why these draft maps were unconstitutional. They described how their districts were not made up of “communities of interest” and how the IRC focused on “competiveness”, at the expense of “compactness” and “geographic features”, another clear violation of the Constitution.
We heard from experts who offered evidence the IRC Chair and her commission had violated not one but all six Constitutional criteria for drawing Congressional and Legislative maps. Amazingly, some of these draft maps were not even drawn by the full commission, but instead by Chairman Mathis, at home over one weekend. That Monday, commission members were shown the maps and told to vote on them.
All of this gerrymandering came on top of an already clouded redistricting process The Chair conspired with the Democrats to hire the counsel for the Republicans! Those same three hired a mapping consultant with clear ties to the White House, and that decision is now the target of a state investigation over open meeting violations. That investigation is crawling along, because Mathis, Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty are stonewalling investigators. And the response by the three to any accusation leveled at them seems to be to hire another high-priced attorney, at taxpayer expense.
Even though Ms. Mathis is a registered Independent, the Democrats are reacting as if we are going after one of their own. They are making wild partisan charges and now even threatening to recall four Republican Senators for simply voting for Mathis’ removal. Lately, that seems to be the knee-jerk response by Democrats to any lawmaker they disagree with.
The Constitution provides for the Governor to call for the removal of an IRC member for neglect of duty or gross misconduct and the State Senate to approve or reject that decision. That is exactly what happened last night. For critics to react to that decision with threats of a recall is outrageous. This is the democratic process, but it’s apparently not the Democrats’ process.