Screeners nominate 25 for 5 seats on redistricting panel

PHOENIX (AP) — A screening panel has winnowed a field of 51 applicants down to 25 nominees for five seats on a state commission that will take on the politically charged task of drawing new congressional and legislative districts for use in Arizona elections in the coming decade.

The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments on Friday selected 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans for legislative leaders to choose from when appointing two Independent Redistricting Commission members from each party.

Those four appointees then must choose a chair from among five independents nominated Thursday by the appointments commission.

The five independents nominated were Gilbert teacher Nicole Cullen, Phoenix attorney Thomas Loquvam, former psychologist Erika Neuberg of Chandler, businessman Gregory Teesdale of Oro Valley and Robert Wilson, a Flagstaff gun store owner who held an August rally for President Donald Trump in his parking lot, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

The new commission will be the third to draw the new post-Census political boundaries under a voter-approved measure that amended the state Constitution to take redistricting out of the hands of the Arizona Legislature.

The redistricting process is politically important because where districts’ lines are drawn can influence what voices are heard and how loudly in the political debate, partly by limiting how many legislative and U.S. House seats each party can realistically win. Consequences include constraints on who can get elected and how lawmakers approach issues such as education, taxation and abortion.

Under the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2000, the redistricting commission must consider population, voting rights, geographic features, communities of interest and competitiveness when drawing new districts.

While Republicans generally liked the district maps drawn after the 2000 Census, those drawn following the 2010 Census were regarded as more favorable to Democrats, prompting strong criticism from Republicans.

Then-Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, tried to oust that commission's chair, who sided with the panel's Democratic members on several key votes, but the Arizona Supreme Court rejected Brewer's move.