Cochise County residents complain redistricting will divide them
SIERRA VISTA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Buena High School auditorium had about 176 people Tuesday night, and many of them were ready to give their feedback on the draft redistricting maps for Arizona. Many of them criticized the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission for dividing Cochise County among two districts.
"If this is a congressional district, you split Cochise County in half," Kathleen Gomez, V.P. of the Greater Douglas Chamber of Commerce said to the redistricting board as she tore a piece of paper in half, and then picked up another one. "If this represents Cochise County in the legislature, you've taken Douglas and Bisbee and divided us."
Many at the hearing wanted Cochise County to remain in one district for both Congress and the state legislature.
"We're going to find ourselves cut off from the area where we have been voting and we have been associated with," said Leon Gordon, who lives in Palominas.
Some border communities would join Santa Cruz County's legislative district. Congressionally, eastern Cochise County would be part of a district that extends north through Flagstaff to the Utah border.
"It isn't just what they're voting on in Congress, it's all the day to day problems the congressional people have to listen to," said Cochise County commissioner Ann English. "And so, it's very important to have people close by."
"I give the example of the Monument Fire and others fires, such as the Murphy Fire, and if we didn't have the representation we have now, we would not have had the successes we've had," said Sierra Vista resident Patricia Grymko.
"They're draft maps at this point," said redistricting commissioner Linda McNulty. "Although they've been done with a great deal of thought and effort, they are draft maps."
McNulty said that the districts must be redrawn since Arizona gained a ninth member of Congress from the last census and populations change.
"The thought behind putting eastern Cochise County in a separate district was to have another voice on the border," she said.
But some consider the commission's move for more border representation makes fair representation less likely.
"There's always an ulterior motive," Gordon said. "And I don't know what it is, but I suspect they're not doing it out of the goodness of their heart."
Tuesday was the seventeenth of 29 hearings that the commission will hold. On Wednesday, it will be in Mesa, followed by Safford on Thursday, Nogales on Friday, and Yuma on Saturday.
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