ACLU Nor Cal
By Nelson Morgan | Arizona Mirror
In late July and early August, Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission conducted a “listening tour,” holding 15 open hearings around the state. The point of the exercise was for the five commissioners to hear the views of the public about their “communities of interest.” A community of interest is often a geographic region where residents shop, work, or otherwise have similar living patterns.
Such areas are typically far too small to comprise an entire legislative district, much less a congressional district, but they can form the building blocks of these larger units. Respecting these communities of interest — for instance by not dividing them with district boundaries — is one of the key criteria added to the Arizona Constitution by a citizen initiative two decades ago.
But during the “open mic” parts of this listening tour, many speakers extrapolated from communities of interest to districts, suggesting that they should solely be composed of people who shared their values. While that concern was not well defined, it was clear that there were some differences that really bothered them — for instance, between “rural” and “Maricopa County.”
There’s a problem with this view. During a public hearing in Tucson, a local speaker took issue with the idea that people in an area “don’t have anything in common” with other groups that they didn’t want to share a district with.