Ex-DOJ aide says Arizona faces voting rights hurdles in redistricting effort

By The Associated Press

Published: August 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Voting rights atop Arizona redistricting criteria
PAUL DAVENPORT,Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — The state redistricting commission got a dose of political reality Monday when it was told that federal officials’ assessment of whether new maps protect minorities’ voting rights effectively trumps other criteria spelled out in the Arizona Constitution.

A former Justice Department official now advising the Arizona commission said the state’s congressional and legislative district maps will face vigorous reviews by that agency for compliance with the Voting Rights Act, a 46-year-old federal law that protects minorities’ voting rights.

And if the maps are found wanting, “you’re talking about no preclearance, no elections,” Bruce Adelson, a former senior Justice Department lawyer, said during a commission meeting in Tucson. He’s now a voting-rights compliance consultant to the Arizona commission’s mapping consultants.

Adelson said the federal mandate on voting rights are paramount, effectively subordinating Arizona’s other redistricting criteria, such as fostering inter-party competition and respecting as-yet-undefined “communities of interest.”

“Your state considerations to redistrict are your state considerations,” Adelson said. “The law is the law.”

Now in the early stages of drawing new congressional and legislative maps for use in elections in the coming decade, the commission has begun directing its consultants to explore “what-if” options for drawing lines under varying scenarios.

Created as a result of a 2000 ballot measure to take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature, the first Arizona redistricting commission learned the importance of Voting Rights Act compliance the hard way. It had to redraw several legislative districts to satisfy Justice Department objections.

Adelson said Voting Rights Act compliance requires Arizona to still have two congressional districts and nine legislative districts in which minority voters are deemed plentiful enough to elect candidates of their choice, typically by having majorities consisting of minority voters.

Otherwise, Arizona would have “retrogression” prohibited under the Voting Rights Act, Adelson said.

The commission briefly touched on the political stakes involved with Voting Rights Act compliance when Democratic Commissioner Jose Herrera raised the subject of “packing.” That’s a redistricting tactic that involves concentrating minority voters in relatively few districts so that remaining districts have fewer Democratic-leaning voters, benefiting Republicans.

Adelson said the state runs the risk of running afoul of one section of the Voting Rights Act if it creates districts without high enough percentages of voting-age minorities to avoid “retrogression” from current districts’ levels.

But “packing” districts with huge majorities of minorities could be a violation of a different section of the law, he said. “You don’t have a lot of margin of error.”

In another development, the commission debated whether to require its mapping consultants to record and disclose their contacts with the public on mapping issues outside of commission hearings and meetings.

Republican Commissioner Richard Stertz notes controversy surrounding the selection of Strategic Telemetry as the mapping consultants. Public concern could be allayed if contacts with the Washington-based firm with Democratic political ties are logged and disclosed to provide transparency, Stertz said.

A proposed amendment to the commission’s contract with Strategic Telemetry to require disclosure of contacts was temporarily set aside after the panel’s two Democratic members proposed changing it to exclude contacts from the media and bloggers from the requirement.

Excluding bloggers creates an exception that would be big enough to drive a “Mack truck through,” Stertz objected.

In deciding to put the issue aside temporarily, commissioners said they want more research on whether and how public bodies regulate media contacts and if there are any court rulings on related First Amendment issues.

The commission on Monday voted 4-0, with the fifth member abstaining, to reaffirm its contract with Strategic Telemetry.

At least one of the Republican members had questioned whether the commission’s executive director was authorized to execute the contract that he negotiated with the firm at the commission’s direction.

“It would help if we put this issue to bed,” Republican Commission Scott Freeman said as he voted to reaffirm the contract.

Redistricting commission picks initial ‘grid’ maps – Arizona

By Paul Davenport, Associated Press

Published: August 18, 2011 at 5:15 pm

 Arizona’s redistricting commission on Thursday picked starting points for drawing new congressional and legislative district maps, with a dissenting member expressing concern about representation of areas along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The commission, during a meeting in Casa Grande, reviewed two sets of so-called grid maps based on only two of the constitutionally required criteria — equal population and compactness of the districts.

One set was based on a starting point in the Phoenix area and the other by working from the southeastern corner of the state.

The commission voted 4-1 to use the southeastern Arizona option, which the commission’s mapping consultants said generally produced districts more compact than the alternatives.

Commissioner Jose Herrera, a Democrat, voted no. He said he was concerned that both options had three congressional districts including regions along the border.

The congressional map used in the past five general elections had two districts along the border, with both seats held by Democrats.

Herrera didn’t explain his concern, but the counties along the border include strong Democratic-leaning areas. Splitting those areas among three districts could make the resulting districts harder for Democrats to win.

With approval of the so-called “grid” maps as starting points for drawing new districts, the commission now must direct the consultants to make changes to satisfy other required redistricting criteria.

Those include respecting as-yet-undefined communities of interest, protecting minority voting rights and creating of districts winnable by either major party.

The commission includes two Democrats, two Republicans and one independent. It was created under a ballot measure approved by voters in 2000 to take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature.

Mapping consultant Ken Strasma said the grid maps were intended to provide the commission with a “clean-slate start” from current districts and to ensure that incumbents’ residences are not considered.

Under questioning by Herrera, Strasma said the number of border districts may have been discussed in discussions he had with other individual commissioners, whom he did not identify.

However, Strasma said the consultants made “no conscious attempt” to have three border districts in the grid maps. “We followed the procedure that was outlined at the last meeting and did not do anything to have either two or three border districts.”

Commission Chair Colleen Mathis, the independent, said the grid maps will be substantially revised as the commission considers the other required criteria.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean we will have three border districts. We could have four or two or we could have one,” she said.

Even before starting actual map work that is bound to stir heated debate among politicians and various advocates, the commission has been embroiled in controversy.

Much of that has centered on the selection of Strasma’s firm, Strategic Telemetry, a Washington-based firm with Democratic ties, as its mapping consultants.

Mathis sided with the two Democrats in picking Strategic Telemetry over a California-based firm favored by the two Republicans.

Adopted congressional “grid” map

Adopted legislative “grid” map

 

We begin to prepare for election 2012 by becoming familiar with Presidential candidates

Barack Obama – current President of the United States – running – Democrat.  Born August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  His parents divorced. Father attended Harvard University, returned to Kenya and was killed in car accident.  American mother married an Indonesian and family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia. Obama attended local schools until 10 and returned to Hawaii to live with maternal grandparents. Attended private college preparatory school and graduated with honors.  Studied at Occidental College in L.A. and transferred to Columbia University, majoring in political science with specialization in international relations.  Received BA in 1983 and worked for one year at Business International Corporation and moved to Chicago to work as community organizer.  Entered Harvard School of Law & graduated with JD degree magna cum laude in 1991.  Married Michelle Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate and had two daughters. Served as associate attorney with Mines, Barnhill & Gallard representing community organizeers, discrimination claims and voting rights claims.  Lectured on Constitutional law at the University of Chicago until elected to State Senate in 1996-2004.  Elected to U.S. Senate and elected President of the United States in 2008. Faces challenges with the economy, foreign relations and national budget deficit. Recent polls see a significant drop in support. Obama relaxed deportation priorities within Homeland Security to focus on deportation of individuals with criminal backgrounds.. He is also proposing new immigration reforms. among the most recent is barring the deportation of some young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as young children with no knowledge of  breaking immigration laws. He is pro-choice and support gay marriages. Obama passed Obamacare, making it possible for 30M to purchase insurance, but being challenged in court on constitutionality. Obama captured and killed Osama Bin Ladin. Withdrew American troops to end the war in Iraq and is credited with working with NATO on Syrian issues and the final death of Muamar Gaddafi. Obama was faced with the biggest financial world challenge immediately after becoming President. Obama offered stimulus funds to U.S. financial institutions, automobile industry, etc. to avoid economic downturn, most have repaid stimulus funds, but is criticized for the effectiveness of the stimulus plan and bailing out institutions.  Established an American Jobs Plan to offer jobs to Americans. Plan was defeated by Republicans in the Senate, but Veterans Jobs segment finally approved. Passed universal health care, supports teachers, college affordability, veterans, elderly, women and children.  Opposes prioritization of Social Security. President is faced with having the U.S. Supreme Court decide on the constitutionality of Obamacare and SB1070, which was challenged by the DOJ charging pre-emption of federal law over state law.  Both may have an impact on his re-election.  Nobel Laureate Prize recipient and author.

Republican challenger

Mitt Romney – Republican Party Nominee for President –  Born on March 12, 1947 and son to George W. Romney  (Governof of Michigan 1963-69).  His father was an automotive executive and his mother an actress turned homemaker. His father was born to American parents living in Mexico. He is a fifth generation member of the Mormon Church.  Mitt Romney was raised in Bloomfield, Michigan, in an elite community, where he attended private boarding school. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Stanford University and after one year, left on a 30 month Mormon mission to France  He returned to the U.S. and in 1965 married Ann Davies who was attending Brigham Young University.  On her encouragement, he enrolled at BYU and graduated with a Bachelors in English and in 1975 received a joint Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration from Harvard University. He and his wife have five children.  Romney served most of his career life in the private sector as a management consultant and executive.  He also served one term as Governor of Massachusettes and later on as President of the Salt Lake City Olympics.   Romney. While Governor, he was criticized for signing into law a health care plan modeled by Obamacare.  During his term he raised taxes by $740M.   According to critics he was not a full-time Governor and as a result Massachusettes was one of two states with a no growth economy during his tenure.  He left office with only a 30% approval rating.  After leaving political office, Romney worked for  Bain Investment firm. His work focused on investing time in helping clients become profitable.  Romney also worked for Bain Capital, investing and acquiring financial stakes in companies and then selling them for profit. He is criticized by his own party members for using Bain Capital to purchase and destroy companies that result in less employment and the  firing of employees.  In 1994 Romney ran for U.S. Senator of Massachusettes and lost to Ted Kennedy .In 1999, he became the President of the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics and helped turn a fiscally troubled organization into a success. He was elected as Governor of Massachusettes in 2002. Romney’s focus is on the economy and job creation. He is pro-life and does not support gay marriages. Romney runs on a conservative campaign that states federal government is too large, millions of jobs lost during Obama administration, citizens faced with bankruptcies and foreclosures under Obama and believes in free enterprise. He has limited experience in foreign policy and recently formed a foreign policy committee.  Romney has strong family values, is Mormon and  has made it clear he will not support amnesty or the Dream Act and is against any immigration reform. This position was recently changed in response to Obama’s Executive Order to grant temporary legal status to students brought to this country as children and needing work visas. Most recently, vetted Senator Marco Rubio as a potential VP candidates. Romney believes in limited government, a need for self-reliance and requirements for welfare.  He is an author, received five honorary degrees and was named by TIME magazine as 100 of the most influential people in the world.

 

U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE GETS REPORT ON ARPAIO AIDES

by Yvonne Wingett Sanchez on May. 05, 2011, under National News

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has received a sensitive investigative report detailing findings about misconduct involving three top commanders for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre confirmed Thursday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had received the internal report this week.

Federal officials subpoenaed the report last week and at the time, MacIntyre said it was unclear how the Sheriff’s Office would respond to the subpoena.

The six-month internal investigation into Arpaio’s men uncovered years of deceit, intimidation and other misconduct by the sheriff’s top commanders and led to the resignations of Chief Deputy David Hendershott and Deputy Chief Larry Black.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who assembled an investigative team to examine Arpaio’s commanders, also recommended that Arpaio fire a third employee, Capt. Joel Fox.

It is unclear whether federal prosecutors received an unredacted copy of the report.

Either way, federal prosecutors generally cannot use information gathered from the three commanders during the administrative investigation against them.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona declined to comment.

Since December 2009, a federal grand jury has met periodically to examine allegations of abuse of power by Arpaio, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas and their employees. Federal prosecutors are still gathering information in the case and FBI special agents continue to interview county leaders, nailing down timelines and following new leads.