COOLIDGE — After an initial schedule raised concerns about representation, Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission released a second draft Tuesday of potential public hearings that includes every county and is geared significantly more toward regional representation.
“Last week’s schedule was just trying to elicit thoughts from the public to see what ideas everyone had,” said IRC Executive Director Brian Schmitt during Tuesday’s meeting. “After hearing from the public, we worked on a new schedule. It’s still tentative, but we’ll try to hit every county and also try and do satellite locations so people don’t have to drive as far.”
The new schedule calls for public hearings in 36 locations throughout all Arizona counties. In Pinal County, the tentative schedule would include meetings in Casa Grande, Sacaton and Winkelman. Schmitt did note that “satellite” meetings, such as would occur in the latter two towns, were “aspirational” at this point.
While no dates yet have been finalized, the commission suggested that public hearings would begin by mid-July and that all scheduled hearings would be announced no later than two weeks before they occurred.
Andrea Varela, community outreach coordinator for Rural Arizona Engagement, said the advocacy group was excited about the Pinal additions to the schedule.
“The IRC is definitely listening,” Varela said. “With community comes power, and we want to thank the public for their comments and their input to the commission.”
RAZE Advocacy Director Aris Correa said the new schedule was a good “first step” in including the public in the redistricting process and said the organization would work to make sure people are testifying at the hearings and advocating to keep communities such as Eloy and Casa Grande contiguous. Correa said that would include trainings and guidance — online, for now.
“Now that we have a place in Pinal for public testimony,” Correa said, “the next step is making sure the community goes out and advocates for themselves. We have to keep pushing forward.”
During the IRC meeting, independent Chairwoman Erika Neuberg said responses from the public were very helpful and the panel would continue to encourage feedback, particularly on the hearings schedule. According to Neuberg, at least some of the meetings will allow members of the public to use interactive mapping tools for discussion. Neuberg also gave an update on the IRC’s outreach coordinator position, which has not been filled yet, but noted that over 50 qualified applicants had applied.
Even with the latter position unfilled, members of the public can still supply comments to the IRC by going to https://irc.az.gov/contact-us.
Pinal County residents interested in learning more about possible training sessions or information related to the redistricting process can contact Varela at firstname.lastname@example.org.