Jan 252012

By Teri Walker —

Arizona’s new legislative and congressional boundaries have been approved by their creators, and are awaiting a final federal stamp of approval by the Department of Justice.

For the most part, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) voted along party lines last week to approve the maps, which were completed just before Christmas.

The commission’s two Democrats and one independent voted to approve both the legislative and congressional district maps, while the two Republicans on the IRC voted against them.

Now, the maps go before the Department of Justice, which must evaluate them based on fair treatment of minorities’ voting rights.

Republican IRC members, and Governor Jan Brewer, have vocally opposed the new boundaries, citing concern that the new districts overtly favor Democrats. Brewer ousted Commission Chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis during the redistricting process, levying charges of violations of open meeting laws among other concerns about the commission’s behavior. The Arizona Supreme Court later reinstated Mathis.

The new boundaries have already changed Arizona’s political landscape. After the new maps were revealed, Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar announced he would be moving from Flagstaff to Prescott into the newly aligned Congressional District 4, because his former district, the new Congressional District 1, is now more heavily Democrat leaning.