Court finds partisanship, IRC legislative lines remain

United States District Court [Photo from Google Maps]

Although a federal court three-judge panel found that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission created districts of varying sizes and that the evidence showed “partisanship played some role in the design of the map,” they refused to force the redrawing of the lines for Arizona’s 30 legislative districts.

The Court found that even if the IRC crafted districts to favor Democrats, the IRC commissioners actions were “primarily a result of good-faith efforts to comply with the Voting Rights Act.”

The Court issued a 55-page opinion in the case brought by republicans argued that the lines were carefully crafted only to increase the Democrats chances of winning seats in the Arizona Legislature.

During the hearing, the panel heard compelling testimony from IRC commissioners and expert witnesses on the matter of commissioner collusion and vote dilution. They listened while evidence was presented that demonstrated deliberate efforts to create an advantage to Democrat Party candidates.

IRC Chairwoman, Colleen Mathis, admitted to collusion by calling the commissioners and telling them that she wanted consensus on selecting a mapping firm. IRC attorneys argue that the commissioners were only following bad advice.

Mathis claimed that the state procurement office director, Jean Clark, gave her “clear guidelines” on procurements. Mathis claimed that Clark advised her that bids could only be awarded after a unanimous vote by the Commission. As a result, Mathis asserted that unanimous votes required consensus, which required conversations outside of meetings with other commissioners.

Mathis’s testimony served to make Commissioner Jose Herrera’s earlier testimony credible when he said that he was told that “had to” give vendor; Strategic Telemetry, a perfect score.

Mathis blamed Clark for the now infamous vote sheet shredding incident. Mathis claimed that when the commission met to discuss their first round of scores for the mapping consultant, she was told by Clark’s office that those sheets were not part of the official procurement file, and could be disposed of. Mathis claimed that she offered to commissioners the option to put their first round of scores in a pile. She then instructed Bladine put them in a bin to be shredded.

Plaintiffs argued that the destruction of the sheets was a direct violation of the state’s public records law.

Mathis also blamed Clark for Mathis’s refusal to allow the republican commissioners to have a lawyer and the democrat commissioners to have their own. Instead she nominated Osborne Maledon and Ballard Spahr, and with Mathis joining the democrats scoring that firm conveniently received the highest scores when all commissioners’ scores were aggregated.

Mathis told the Court, “We voted in a three-two decision on the attorneys, so they weren’t very pleased with that result,” meaning Clark.

The two Republican commissioners protested, saying they should be allowed to select their attorney, but Mathis refused saying she was just trying to follow Clark’s instructions.

Attorneys for the IRC defendants repeatedly advised the panel that the commissioners were simply following poor legal advice. Plaintiffs’ attorney repeatedly advised the panel that simply following poor legal advice is not a defense for unethical or illegal behavior.

In his closing arguments, plaintiff’s attorney Cantelme said that Commissioner Rick Stertz said that he “knew they were packing districts,” but the lawyer told them it was okay so he went along with it.

Cantelme also advised the judges that the IRC did not dispute the testimony of Dr. Thomas Hofeller. Hofeller testified that the “high number of deviations from neutral criteria for creating districts and the magnitude of the deviations lead to only one logical conclusion: that the IRC intentionally gerrymandered the political maps.”

Hofeller testified that the Commission intentionally diluted the Hispanic vote. Hofeller said that this was achieved by placing Latino voters into non-Latino heavily Democrat district, which then strengthened the Democrat presence in those districts.

Related article:

IRC commissioner’s emails, phone records, show collusion

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