Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gov. Brewer’s Power Grab

NY Times

Now in vogue: "Celebrity Stupid"
In 2000, Arizonans voted to take the power of legislative redistricting out of the hands of statehouse incumbents and create an independent commission free from the gerrymandering of political bosses. This signal reform for fairer elections was blatantly undermined last week when Gov. Jan Brewer led fellow Republicans in the State Senate to oust the chairwoman of the independent commission on unsubstantiated charges of “gross misconduct.” What it really was was a gross power play by Governor Brewer to ensure a more Republican-friendly map.

Disgruntled Republicans had been openly fearful that the new map being shaped by the five-member commission would produce more competitive races in districts traditionally rated “safe” for Republican incumbents. No leveling of the playing field, please.

Before she was ousted, Colleen Mathis, a registered independent and respected civic volunteer, was doing an effective job as the head of the panel, which includes two members each from the two major parties. But Republicans charged that the commission’s decision to hire a mapping consultant with Democratic ties was clear bias and grounds for Ms. Mathis’s ouster.

The authors of the 2000 law stressed that the “gross misconduct” ground for removal was written for egregious misdeeds like bribe taking and influence peddling — not the partisan displeasure of an incumbent majority.

Governor Brewer, anticipating a “flawed product” from the commission, used her party’s supermajority in the Senate to engineer the two-thirds vote needed for the chairwoman’s removal. An attempt also to oust the commission’s two Democrats fell short of enough votes. It is unclear what will come of the issue in court fights now brewing. But voters who opted for something better 11 years ago should score Ms. Mathis’s removal as a deliberate act of political intimidation — and a cynical attempt to end run the law.

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