By Linda Kor–
The Navajo County Redistricting Committee met Nov. 8, and chose three redistricting maps to forward to the Board of Supervisors for consideration. The selection was no easy task, with a new map presented at the last minute and two committee members voting against the map selection.
The reason for the redistricting is the 2010 Census, which shows Navajo County political districts need to be redrawn to accommodate population reductions in Districts 1 and 2, and increases in Districts 4 and 5. By statute, Arizona holds the concept of one person, one vote, which dictates that political districts should be roughly equal in population, and that boundaries should consider the federal Voting Rights Act requirements, district shape, geographical features, respect for communities of interest and potential competitiveness.
As the meeting began, Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, addressed the committee and presented a new map for consideration.
According to Gorman, the new map is a slight revision of the map presented to the Naabik’iyati Committee on the Navajo Nation the previous day by the redistricting committee. The revision allows for district borders to follow along Native American chapter borders, something that Gorman believed would create a balanced voting district.
“I need to clarify this. The county’s consultants prepared a revised map that I saw approved by the Human Rights Commission yesterday. Are you saying that they are no longer endorsing that map?” asked Deputy County Attorney Jason Moore, referring to the merger of two maps, one presented by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission on Sept. 26 and another map created by Snowflake Councilman Tom Poscharsky.
“That was not the commission, but a subgroup. We had five to 10 minutes to review before the vote went to the floor. Last night I ran the numbers to get a better determination. It seemed like an opportunity for adjustment. If there were deadlines that needed to be met, I was unaware,” stated Gorman.
He went on to say that the visit by the commission was welcome, but that it was his office’s job to assist and recommend in situations such as these. “I look forward to the reasons why this would be rejected,” Gorman said.
Committee Chairman Marlin Gillespie explained to Gorman that the committee had been receiving public recommendations for four months, and was presented with various maps for consideration. He further explained that this meeting was scheduled to vote on which of those maps would be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for consideration, and that he did not feel comfortable including a revised map received too late for public review.
Committee member Alice Franco Anderson addressed the fact that although the map presented by Gorman indicated that it might better suit Native American voters, there was no information to show how those changes impacted other voters.
Snowflake Town Manager Paul Watson addressed the commission, stating his opinion that the suggested “minor” adjustments would have a significant impact on the overall outcome, a sentiment echoed by Poscharsky, who also addressed the commission.
Winslow City Attorney Dale Patton addressed the commission, noting disfavor of any map presented that would divide the City of Winslow into separate districts. “The map given in September (by the NNHRC) divided Winslow into three districts for a city with a population of 10,000 people. I don’t know of a reason to do that. We are the second largest city in the county next to Show Low and we want to be kept in one district. We don’t care which one it is, just all in one,” he stated. “The Department of Justice is not concerned about deviation, because they do not enforce it. This will divide us up until we can’t elect anyone; we want to be able to influence one supervisor. This is supposed to be one man, one vote; not one man one-third of a vote or even one-half of a vote.” After some discussion, the committee voted 3-2 to submit maps TLP04, a map created by Poscharsky that keeps Sun Valley and Holbrook in the same district as requested by the City of Holbrook; map RB06, a map created by Mayor Robyn Boyd that keeps Winslow in one district; and map NNHRC/TLP04, a merged map of the one created by Poscharsky and the one that the commission had understood to be approved by the NNHRC. Gillespie, Anderson and Michael Peddy approved the motion, with Lennard Eltsosie and Robert Black Jr. voting against it.
Both Moore and Gillespie noted that the maps being forwarded are simply for consideration. Other maps, such as the one presented by Gorman, could be brought before the Board of Supervisors for consideration, as well, and did not require the commission to submit them.
Members of the Board of Supervisors will have an opportunity to review the maps prior to their Nov. 15 meeting, and may take action at that time or wait until their Nov. 29 meeting to select a map to be forwarded to the Justice Department.
The maps also include a breakdown of the county’s ethnic population and percentages associated with the districts. That information is available online at http://www.navajocountyaz.gov/bos/redistricting/.