In a sudden email late Wednesday night, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ office informed candidates that their signature-gathering system, E-Qual, would be suspended once the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) certifies the 2022 maps. Until the system reflects the 2022 maps, candidates may only collect signatures based on 2020 maps — meaning any 2022 district signatures may be invalid. The secretary of state anticipates that by March 5, E-Qual will be unavailable entirely to allow counties to update their data.
“To allow counties to import updated files into the system, E-Qual will be suspended for all Legislative and Congressional candidates at that time and will likely remain unavailable through the remainder of the filing period,” warned the secretary of state’s office.
E-Qual allows candidates to more easily gather signatures to qualify for the ballot, allowing voters to sign for a candidate wherever they can access the internet.
Arizona Free Enterprise Club President Scot Mussi told AZ Free News that this was a failure on the secretary of state’s part.
“They had months to prepare for the district changes,” said Mussi. “Maybe if they had spent less time rewriting state law through the election manual they would’ve been more prepared.”
AZ Free News inquired with the secretary of state’s office why they hadn’t adjusted their system operations accordingly in anticipation of the 2022 redistricting. We also inquired how Hobbs believed this action impacted her recent initiative to ensure trust in election officials. Hobbs partnered with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) to ensure voters get “timely, accurate information” about elections.
The secretary of state’s office didn’t respond to AZ Free News by press time. However, spokesperson Murphy Hebert told the Arizona Mirror that their office wasn’t unprepared: rather, their office made the decision to suspend the system because of the new district maps, and pointed out December guidance sent to candidates advising them to not update their profiles to reflect the new districts in E-Qual.
“The notion that this is happening late in the game is a bit disingenuous. From day one, the office has always been responsive to feedback. Based on the feedback we received, we made the decision to update the plan,” said Hebert. “We’re trying to implement the best approach that gives both candidates and voters access, with the alternative being the system going offline entirely.”
According to the late-night notification email to candidates written by Elections Filing Manager Joshua Doty, legislative and congressional candidates won’t be able to collect signatures from voters once counties begin implementing the 2022 maps in the system. Doty blamed redistricting on the system shutdown; he advised candidates they could use paper petitions to collect signatures in the meantime, and that they should consult their campaign or legal counsel for further advice.
“Because redistricting remains in progress, Legislative and Congressional candidates are currently only able to use E-Qual to collect signatures from voters in the candidate’s 2020 district. After the [IRC] certifies the 2022 maps, counties will begin working toward implementing the 2022 maps into the statewide voter registration system. To allow counties to import updated files into the system, E-Qual will be suspended for all legislative and congressional candidates at that time and will likely remain unavailable through the remainder of the filing period,” wrote Doty. “Each candidate should consult their campaign or legal counsel to determine the best option for their situation.”
Doty further warned that those who wish to continue collecting signatures from their 2020 district shouldn’t designate their 2022 district on their campaign profile. Those who wish to update their district should resign to the fact that they’ll have to collect paper petitions for both their 2020 and 2022 districts.
“If you designate a 2022 district, then you will not have access to the E-Qual system until the 2022 maps have been imported into the statewide voter registration database, which likely will not happen before the close of the candidate filing period on April 4,” stated Doty. “However, any candidates who want to continue using E-Qual to collect signatures from voters in their 2020 district should not update their district at this time.”
Doty also reminded candidates of two upcoming webinars advising on procedures for the 2022 filing cycle.
In a press release response, gubernatorial candidate Steve Gaynor lambasted Hobbs for giving candidates this hurdle on short notice.
“The E-Qual collapse is an absolute injustice,” stated Gaynor. “It makes it harder for Arizonans to run for office, and impedes the ability of our citizens to participate in the democratic process. Secretary Hobbs has failed to ensure the integrity of our elections by creating roadblocks to participation, and her incompetence shows plainer each day. This cannot stand – Katie Hobbs needs to get her act together and the E-Qual system must be fixed immediately.”
The final push on Arizona’s redistricting maps is upon us. And for the most part, things are getting better. The maps are reflecting the community input that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has received over the past three months, and that’s important. After all, this process only takes place every 10 years, so whatever maps are drawn will determine your district for the next decade.
On top of that, the maps are also close to fitting the criteria that the commission must follow in the Arizona Constitution. This is good. And this is the direction the maps should be headed.
So, naturally, the Democrats are trying everything they can to game the system. And this time they are doing it through a group called the Arizona Latino Coalition for Fair Redistricting.
Phoenix, AZ – The initial maps for Arizona’s redistricting process were approved on September 14, 2021, by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). The approved grid maps are of equal populations for the congressional and legislative districts as required by the state constitution.
Arizonans are encouraged to become involved with this next phase by utilizing the online mapping system and or by attending the public hearing sessions. Information can be found at irc.az.gov.
“We welcome the involvement and voices of all interested individuals and groups to become part of this critical process that will remain in place for the next ten years,” said Erika Neuberg, Chairwoman Independent Redistricting Commission. “With the approval of scheduled dates, times and locations, for the next round of public hearing, we will follow the State of Arizona’s COVID guidelines but also encourage those who choose not to participate in person to please go online and submit comments and maps.”
The following is the schedule of in-person public meeting sessions:
Tuesday, September 21 4:00 pm (MST) 5:00 pm (MDT)
Red Mountain Multigenerational Center
7550E. Adobe St.
Mesa, AZ 85207
Yuma Civic Center
1440 W. Desert Hills Dr.
Yuma, AZ 85365
Navajo Nation Training Center (limit 25 participants onsite) Masks Required
Morgan Blvd. Bldg. #2740
Window Rock, AZ 86515
Thursday, September 23 12:00 pm ( MST)
Scottsdale Center for the Arts
7380 E. 2nd St.,
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
777 N. Pinal Ave
Casa Grande, AZ 85122
391 E. Fry Blvd.
Sierra Vista, AZ 85635
Saturday, September 25 10:00 am (MST)
Desert Willow Conference Center
4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 850401
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
3700 Willow Creek Road
Prescott, AZ 86301
Wednesday, September 29 4:00 pm (MST)
Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center
33606 N. 60th St.
Scottsdale, AZ 85266
Tucson Convention Center
260 S. Church Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85701
Thursday, October 7 4:00 pm (MST) 5:00 (MDT)
The Vista Center for the Arts
15660 N. Parkview Pl.
Surprise, AZ 85374
High Country Conference Center
201 W. Butler Ave.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Cesar Chavez Cultural Center
1015 N. Main St.
San Luis, AZ 85349
Kayenta Township Town Hall (limit 25 participants onsite) Masks required
100 N. Highway 163
Kayenta, AZ 86033
Individuals attending the in-person sessions at the main and satellite locations will have the opportunity to speak and give public comments on the grid maps. They can also complete their mapping comments online before the public meetings.
Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) will meet Tuesday, Aug. 31 to discuss public comments it heard over the last several weeks as the commissioners prepare to redraw the boundaries of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts and 9 congressional districts as required by law.
The five-member AIRC was formed in January with Democrats Shereen Lerner and Derrick Watchman, Republicans David Mehl and Douglas York, along with Erika Neuberg, an Independent, serving as chairwoman. The commission began its string of 15 hearings last month in an effort to hear citizens’ concerns and suggestions as AIRC prepares to map out Arizona’s 30 redesigned legislative districts (LD) and 9 congressional districts (CD).
The redistricting process requires boundaries to be redrawn under a plan that keeps districts at nearly equal population as required by the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions. It is based on population data garnered by the decennial U.S. Census.
Currently, each LD in Arizona represents about 213,000 people based on a 2010 Census population of nearly 6.4 million, while each CD serves about 710,000 people, give or take a few percent points. The AIRC must now start refresh to draw new boundaries for all the districts based on Arizona’s 2020 Census population of 7,158,923.
In developing those boundaries, the commissioners are required to consider six factors: equal population; compactness and contiguousness; compliance with the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act; respect for communities of interest; incorporation of geographic features such as city, town and county boundaries; and creation of competitive districts where there is no significant detriment to other goals.
It is the respect for communities of interest and creation of competitive districts which prompted the most public comments during the AIRC’s recent hearings. One of the concerns stems from the decision of the last redistricting commission to split some counties into multiple legislative districts, such as Pinal County which was carved up as part of six LDs.
There are also concerns with the past practice of drawing congressional districts which incorporate disparate and distant communities, as with CD4’s current boundary. That boundary starts in the northwest corner of the state Mohave County, about one hour northeast of Las Vegas. The line then meanders south through Mohave and La Paz counties (minus a few hundred square miles in CD5) down to the northern part of Yuma County.
CD4 also encompasses much of central Arizona, including most of Yavapai County, and it even skirts most of the Maricopa County metropolitan area so it can incorporate parts of Gila and Pinal counties.
Meanwhile, CD1 covers all of four counties (Apache, Graham, Greenlee, and Navajo), most of Coconino County, and parts of Gila, Maricopa, Mohave, Pinal, and Yavapai counties. By comparison, CD2 currently consists of Cochise County in the state’s southeast corner along with eastern Pima County.
At Tuesday’s virtual meeting, the AIRC is also expected to receive updates from mapping consultants and discuss an outreach strategy plan, as well as schedule additional public comment sessions. Among those closely following Arizona’s redistricting efforts is Fair Maps Arizona, founded in 2019 by current Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Gaynor.
Fair Maps Arizona is providing outreach efforts to help residents better understand legislative and congressional redistricting, and to encourage public comments.
U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is also closely tracking Arizona’s redistricting process. Gallego leads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose political action committee announced earlier this month it plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in three southwestern states, including Arizona.
The PAC is expected to team up with grassroots organization to ensure the concerns of Latinos are taken into consideration by the redistricting committees in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.
“Redistricting will dictate how Latino communities are represented in the halls of Congress for the next decade,” Gallego said at the time of the announcement.
The 2020 U.S. Census state population results were announced Monday, and while Arizona added nearly 760,000 residents over the last 10 years, the growth was not as high as some state officials estimated. As a consequence, Arizona will not earn a 10th congressional district as many had expected.
The official increase in Arizona’s population is listed at 746,223 from April 1, 2010 to April 1, 2020. That puts the number of residents at almost 7.16 million. What won’t be available for a few more months is the population breakdown by counties and communities.
Gov. Doug Ducey and his census taskforce pushed hard during the 2020 Census process, committing nearly $2 million to the effort which was hit hard by COVID-19. State officials previously said 99.9 percent of all households were counted.
“In 2020, countless volunteers embarked on a statewide campaign to reach underrepresented communities, resulting in AZ’s highest self-response rate in decades,” the state’s census team tweeted Monday. “The state’s 64.1% self-response rate exceeded that from 2010 (61.3%) and 2000 (63%). 19 of the 20 land-based tribal communities in AZ had final enumeration rates of 100%.”
Many estimates by government agencies had pegged Arizona’s overall population at nearly 7.4 million going into 2020. It is unclear whether those estimates were based on overly optimistic formulas or if well-publicized concerns with how answers to census questions would be used kept some residents from being forthright.
The most immediate impact of the Census state population announcement is that those interested in representing Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives now know the state’s allotment of congressional districts will remain at nine, each serving roughly 795,500 residents.
Each state is initially assigned one of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representative. The rest are then allotted based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Arizona came in about 80,000 residents short for being considered for another congressional seat, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon added a seat. Texas added two congressional seats to its current 36.
How the boundaries of Arizona’s nine districts will look won’t be known for more than one year, as the Arizona Independent Restricting Commission must wait for the more detailed, localized census data to finalize their maps.
Long term, the biggest impact of the lesser than expected population numbers could be on Arizona’s budget, of which about 40 percent comes from federal funds. If Arizona was truly undercounted during the census process, there are some estimates it could cost the state roughly $62 million annually for every one percent undercount.