Jan Brewer Ousts Chief Of AZ Independent Redistricting Commission

November 2, 2011 6:27 a.m.

Arizona’s Republican-controlled Senate upheld a decision by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to oust the chair of the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission, citing “gross misconduct” and Democratic bias.Colleen Coyle Mathis, who is registered as an independent, was voted out by a party line vote of 21-6 on Tuesday. Brewer had needed a two-thirds majority to uphold her decision.

The new congressional lines were based on data from the 2010 Census, and Republicans claimed the commission’s versions of the new lines would heavily favor incumbent Democrats. “What we have is a so-called independent who has leaned heavily to one direction,” state Sen. Linda Gray (R) said, Bloomberg reports. “This person is not representing independents. She is working only with Democrats on these maps.”

Secretary of State Ken Bennett issued a letter on behalf of Brewer detailing the reasoning behind Mathis’ ouster. From the Arizona Republic:

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.

The state’s Attorney General is investigating whether the commission violated Open Meeting Laws.

According to the Republic, 11 years ago voters approved a ballot measure that gives the commission authority to do the redistricting — rather than the state Legislature — but also gives the governor authority to remove anyone on the panel for “gross misconduct.”

“I recognize that my decision will not be popular in some quarters,” Brewer said in a statement. “However, the conduct of the IRC — led by Chairwoman Mathis — has created a cloud of suspicion that will not lift. A flawed redistricting process has resulted in flawed district maps.”

“I have undertaken this responsibility with the utmost care to be honest, fair and impartial, and to ensure that the public as well as each commissioner has a voice,” Mathis said in a statement. “I can assure you that I have endeavored to uphold all of the provisions of the law, and in the loyalty oath I took when I was sworn in.”

Members of the commission said they would ask to the courts to block the Senate’s vote.

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