Local advocacy group says panel was biased, ignored minority communities

Erika Neuberg, who chairs the Independent Redistricting Commission, defends Tuesday the decisions made so far by the panel against criticism by Democrat Shereen Lerner, right, that the congressional maps are purposely crafted to favor Republican candidates.

/Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer

By Aaron Dorman |PinalCentral

 Over the past year, the organization Rural Arizona Engagement has sounded an alarm about redistricting discussions ignoring minority communities.

Unfortunately, the members say, after continually raising concerns about whose voices were being heard by the commission, the final maps, which were unveiled last week on Dec. 22, reflect that lack of engagement.

“The maps do not accurately reflect Arizona’s diverse and growing population,” said Andrea Varela, RAZE community outreach coordinator. “We feel that Arizona is a competitive swing state, evidenced by the fact that the state voted for Biden and elected two Democratic senators. But if you look at the maps, even the competitive districts lean Republican, and this skew is out of alignment with voters.”

In particular, Varela said the new districts were created at the expense of Latino and Native American communities. Pinal County itself was split into new congressional districts. Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Prescott will no longer represent the county, while Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran said he would run in the new District 2, although that region no longer includes Eloy and part of Casa Grande, which O’Halleran currently represents.

Varela said the new District 2 is expected to be far less competitive, and lean Republican, than the current District 1.

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