The Daily Agenda: The IRC, the VRA and the DOJ
All we want for Christmas is new maps ... Latinx isn't as woke as you think it is ... And Brno made us a chart.
Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission tinkered with the political lines, fine-tuned the maps and worried about the U.S. Justice Department when members regrouped yesterday for their first meeting post-listening tour.
The IRC is speeding toward its goal of passing final maps in two weeks, and changes are coming fast and furious.
And as Capitol scribe Howie Fischer explains, every little tweak in a political boundary sends ripples through the state, forcing tweaks to one or dozens of other political lines.
Journalist and redistricting author David Daley spent a lot of ink on one line in particular: Gilbert Road, comparing it to the dividing line between MAGA and BLM, and a tectonic fault line with the ability to shift America’s fate.
Despite the over-the-top language and the omission that the draft maps were adopted unanimously, the piece does a good job of explaining what a long game redistricting is — and how well Gov. Doug Ducey’s team has played that game to ensure a favorable outcome from Arizona’s independent map-makers.
The Department of Justice loomed large as Arizona’s political cartographers started to put the finishing touches on their maps yesterday, and commissioners grappled with how to maximize so-called “VRA districts” or “majority-minority districts.” Those districts are designed to allow people of color to elect a representative of their choice in an attempt to satisfy the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that people of color aren’t split into so many districts that it dilutes their voting power.
Just as commissioners were meeting, the DOJ announced a federal lawsuit against Texas Republican lawmakers, who the department accused of diluting Latino voting power by eliminating VRA districts when they redrew their congressional and state House maps.
But if Arizona’s maps do turn out to be an attempt to disenfranchise Latino or other voters of color, here’s the problem: After the last round of redistricting, the U.S. Supreme Court erased the need for DOJ “preclearance” of maps from states like Arizona with histories of racial discrimination.
As U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland explained, the lack of preclearance creates two significant hurdles for federal oversight of mapping.
“One, it means that we don’t get a chance to look at these things before they go into effect, which is a very significant aspect of our tools, and instead requires that we challenge every case individually,” Garland said. “And second, it flips the burden of proof.”
Expect this to become a major talking point today: A surge of people is seeking asylum in the U.S. via the border in Yuma to try to enter the country before the Remain in Mexico policy is reinstated, ABC 15 reports from the border. Gov. Doug Ducey said on Twitter that he’s directed the Arizona National Guard, state homeland security director and the Department of Public Safety to come up with plans for what the state can do to address the issue.
Hello, goodbye: Douglas Sargent was promoted to director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, replacing Jeff Hood, who is retiring, Ducey’s office announced yesterday.
No to cameras in classrooms, yes to cameras in the Governor’s Office: Republican gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson also does not like Kari Lake’s plan to put cameras in classrooms. Responding to her fellow GOP governor contender, Taylor Robson compared the idea to Chinese surveillance, according to Republic reporter Stacey Barchenger. She joins GOP contender Matt Salmon in calling out the idea, as we noted yesterday.
Word choice sends a message: U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego weighed in on a debate among the left over the use of the word “Latinx,” saying he doesn’t allow his office to use the term in its communications because it is often used by Latino politicians “largely to appease white rich progressives who think that is the term we use.” His comments were spurred by a Politico article that dissects the term’s usage by Democrats and how it could backfire with Latino (Latinx?) voters.
Remember him?: Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake starts his position as ambassador to Turkey today. Flake spoke to KJZZ’s Steve Goldstein at length about his views on the current political landscape within the Republican Party and his concerns over the election conspiracies that took root in the past few years. Flake said he’d “walk on hot coals to a polling place to vote for the Democrat” if the contest was between a Democrat and a Republican who believed Trump won. (Yes, he’s still a Republican, he confirmed.)
A fancy new technology known as “trees”: Rising heat levels in the Valley could cost us billions of dollars and increase deaths unless measures are taken to add more shade trees and cool roofs (which reflect sunlight better than typical roofs) to mitigate the heat, the Republic’s Brandon Loomis reports.
Never too late: Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in 2011, became a bat mitzvah recently, a goal of hers from before the shooting. Giffords, whose father was Jewish, chanted from the Torah at a ceremony in Tucson, alongside Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, journalist Amy Silverman wrote for Forward.
More pieces of paper for everyone: Career and technical education districts could start offering associate degrees if some lawmakers succeed at passing legislation to allow them to do so, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Kyra Haas reports. The idea comes after community colleges in the state were allowed the ability to offer four-year degrees and as the state’s educational attainment levels continue to lag other states.
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New names to remember: Get to know the newly appointed lawmakers and understand how the added newbies will affect committees and the legislative session overall, both courtesy of Cap Times’ Nathan Brown. Educated guess: It’ll make the session longer.
About time: Eviction levels are lower than they were before the pandemic and actually decreased from October to November, likely a sign that rental aid funds are finally getting into the hands of those who need them, KJZZ’s Jill Ryan reports.
Tell all your friends: The vast majority of 18-year-olds in Maricopa and Pima counties aren’t yet registered to vote, KJZZ’s Rocio Hernandez reports. The good news: Registering to vote is free, and they have plenty of time to do so before the 2022 elections! If you’re not registered to vote, get registered here.
Launch them into space: Two women who are University of Arizona graduates are new astronaut recruits, a rough day for ASU in the ASU/UA rivalry.
Don’t be alarmed if you hear some planes this morning — there’s a flyover scheduled for 10:55 a.m. at the Arizona Capitol to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day. The Capitol event will also feature speakers, including service members and lawmakers, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The Arizona Capitol Museum also has exhibits about the USS Arizona, including “newly polished” silver used on the ship and a replica of the Arizona.
If you’re a regular reader of the Daily Agenda, you know we’re always asking for some charts so we can keep track of stuff, like all the investigations into Arizona by the feds, the musical chairs in the Legislature and the various lawsuits filed by Attorney General Mark Brnovich in his quest to get on Fox News while running for U.S. Senate. Thankfully, Brnovich himself has supplied a simple chart that updates us on the three anti-vaccine mandate lawsuits in which his office is currently involved. Keep making us charts!