One of the most important and least talked-about stories this year concerns how Congressional districts are being remapped. Depending on the state, it's either a horribly political and gerrymandered process, or it's being done by an independent board. In California, for example, redistricting was done by an independent board and yielded what appears to be pretty objective districts for this decade.
Arizona also has an independent board, but not as independent as it should be, since the governor can allow members to be impeached by the State Senate. Yesterday, Jan Brewer axed the head of that "independent" commission by allowing the Senate to impeach her for arguably trumped-up reasons.
On a 21-6 party line vote, the Senate gave the Republican governor the two-thirds majority vote she needed to oust Colleen Coyle Mathis, citing "gross misconduct" in her role at the helm of the independent panel.
The Arizona Constitution gives the independent panel the authority to do political redistricting, but provides a role for the governor to seek removal of any commissioner whom she finds guilty of "gross misconduct." It also calls for the Senate to ratify the governor's action.
But Democrats said Republicans fueled the effort because they don't like the draft maps the commission has produced, especially the proposed new congressional map.
"What we have here is a witch hunt," said Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe. "It is a disgrace. We get it: You don't like the maps. I don't like the maps, either."
The draft maps particularly agitated Arizona's GOP congressmen, who don't like the fact that districts currently seen as "safe" Republican seats would become more competitive, and who feel lines were manipulated to favor incumbent Democrats. They pressured Brewer to also remove the panel's two Democratic commissioners. However, the Senate could not muster the votes.
Governor Brewer's definition of "gross misconduct?"
The letter cited Mathis' failure to conduct commission meetings publicly, a reference to the ongoing controversy over whether the commission violated the state Open Meeting Law when it voted in June to hire a mapping consultant with Democratic ties.
The governor also cited a failure to properly adjust the "grid map," the starting point for drawing new maps, to account for all of the criteria required for new maps, as well as an overreliance on competitiveness as a factor in drawing new boundary lines.
That's all just cover for what really bothers Arizona Republicans. Daily Kos:
For much of the year, Republican office-holders and conservative agitators throughout the state have howled about the commission's work, spuriously claiming that the panel was tilted toward Democrats. Their rhetoric was toxic almost from day one, and eventually it led to official legal action: Republican Attorney General Tom Horne opened a very public investigation into alleged malfeasance by the Democratic and independent commissioners, designed to mau-mau them into obedience. In the end, the commission produced a draft map early last month that wasso unfair, it contained four safe GOP seats and only two safe Democratic districts.
Yes, that's me being extremely arch. Only in the warped conservative worldview could a map with four Republican seats, two Democratic seats, and three evenly balanced districts be considered somehow "unfair" to the GOP. If anything, the map is unfair to Democrats, seeing as there are 1.1 million registered Republicans in the state, compared to a million each of Dems and independents.
In plain terms, Arizona Republicans didn't like the map so they're overturning the will of the people and removing those who drew the map, beginning with the one at the top. How...undemocratic.
This isn't over yet. The commission is appealing this to the State Supreme Court and will be continuing its work in the meantime.