Last December, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) made changes to the legislative map that saved two Republican senators from being drawn into heavily Democratic districts.
- Republican Commissioner David Mehl then told a town hall meeting that he and fellow Commissioner Doug York had been “inundated” with messages asking that the unincorporated community of Liberty be moved to a neighboring district with Buckeye.
- Liberty is home to Republican Sen. Sine Kerr, and the change took it from a heavily Democratic district to a Republican district.
Driving the news: There is no record of communications to or from the two commissioners regarding these changes on the two days that changes were made.
State of play: Axios Phoenix has requested all text and social media messages, emails and phone call records from Mehl and York regarding the changes.
What else happened: The second change came on the final day of deliberations, Dec. 22, when Mehl proposed a last-minute change that moved part of South Flagstaff from a heavily Native American Democratic district to a neighboring Republican district.
- The residence of Senator Wendy Rogers (R) is in this section of Flagstaff.
- After the meeting, Democratic Commissioner Shereen Lerner told reporters that Mehl told her during a break that he wanted to make the change at the request of a friend and suggested that he might know it would help an incumbent. .
- Mehl would not comment on Lerner’s allegation.
To note : The Arizona Constitution prohibits commissioners from considering incumbent addresses when drawing its districts.
Yes, but: Nothing prevents others who suggest changes or even submit entire cards for review from trying to help cardholders or potential applicants.
- The AIRC has adopted many of the recommendations submitted to it.
What they say : Mehl tells Axios Phoenix that the attorney advised him not to comment due to a lawsuit challenging the commission’s maps.
- York did not respond to our requests for comment.
- In a January 4 email provided by the AIRC, Mehl told commission officials that he had not had any communication with Rogers for three months or more.
The other side: Lerner, who voted against the legislative map and has been highly critical of the conduct of fellow Republicans, says she is concerned that there is no documentation showing who Mehl and York spoke to before making these changes.
- “From my perspective, they were very clear that they were hearing things,” Lerner said. “Why there are no messages is a great question. I can’t answer why these don’t exist.”
Erika Neubergthe president of the AIRC, tells Axios Phoenix that she does not find the lack of documents regarding, nor does she think it is a problem if Mehl, York or any other commissioner has been contacted by outsiders to the commission regarding their mapping work.
- “I went into this assuming that my four colleagues would have conversations with people they had relationships with,” Neuberg said.
- Neuberg says she pledged to fully comply with all public records requests, but could not say whether her colleagues did the same.
To note : Neuberg says she never made any changes based on where the incumbents lived and saw no evidence that anything inappropriate happened during the commission’s work.
Meanwhile: She says the only outside influence she personally saw were text messages Lerner received at meetings and alleged that the Democratic commissioner was led during deliberations.
- Lerner says she considered information she received from outside calls or text messages, but never “directly” attempted to modify the cards based on those communications.