The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday, Dec. 6, to hire an expert on redistricting to prepare to redraw the county’s political boundaries, which Yavapai County Administrator Julie Ayers said was “almost guaranteed” before the 2012 election.
The county hired Federal Compliance Consulting of Maryland, headed by former U.S. Department of Justice Senior Attorney Bruce Addelson, who had national enforcement responsibility for federal voting laws.
The supervisors authorized the county to spend up to $85,000 for Addelson’s services during the next year.
The county expects the 2010 census to show its population surpassed 175,000 residents, a threshold that will require redistricting under state law, Ayers said.
“When the county passes the 175,000 threshold, we will be required to expand the Board of Supervisors to five members and to establish supervisorial districts accordingly,” she wrote in the Board of Supervisors’ agenda.
Lines that currently draw three supervisors’ districts will be redrawn as five to accomplish several constitutionally required goals, Ayer said.
A redistricting plan must create districts that are relatively equal in population. The plan must not dilute the strength of minority voters. It must not result in a “racial gerrymander,” which attempts to draw lines according to the racial component of various neighborhoods.
Finally, a redistricting plan must take into account traditional redistricting criteria such as compactness, contiguity, and respect for political subdivision lines and communities of interest, she said.
Since the redistricting process must comply with federal statutory guidelines and will be subject to review by the U.S. Department of Justice, it will require careful planning and execution, Ayers wrote.
The time remaining for completion of the process is relatively short. The target for completion of the process and preclearance of the new redistricting plan by the DOJ is December 2011. This will allow the county to make election packets available to candidates by Jan. 12, 2012, she wrote.
It is our intention to utilize in-house resources for this project to the greatest possible extent. There are, however, certain areas where specialized expertise may be particularly useful. These would include the complex statistical and demographic analysis of the county’s voting history and submission of the redistricting plan to the Department of Justice, Ayers wrote.
President Barack Obama is the first president who has actually worked as an attorney to enforce federal voting lights laws, Addelson said. The president appointed more than 100 additional attorneys to the DOJ’s voting rights division in anticipation of redistricting required by the 2010 census, he said.
“The DOJ’s current enforcement posture appears to differ from its approach during the 2000 redistricting cycle, with more vigorous policing apparently in place,” Addelson said.
Because Arizona is one state under court order to submit all redistricting plans to a federal judge for a review known as preclearance, it is important the county do what it can up front to prepare plan that will pass scrutiny and avoid the cost and delay of potential lawsuits, he said.
Addelson said he expects to complete preliminary studies, reviews and analysis of demographic information by the end of this year.
Outreach meetings will be conducted with community leaders in January and February to prepare for the official release of the 2010 census data from February through April. Review of the census data should be completed by April, Addelson said.
Addelson and Ayers will meet with public officials about the data in May and public meetings will also be conducted.
Alternate plans for redistricting of the county will be prepared and presented by July.
August will be spent preparing the final plan for publication in September. The county would adopt the final plan in October, leaving two months in advance of the final deadline to work with the DOJ to obtain preclearance approval, Addelson said.