Court stops Pinal County power grab - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Court stops Pinal County power grab

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Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2009 4:41 pm | Updated: 12:41 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our view: The blatant partisan gerrymandering to stack the Pinal County  Board of Supervisors turns out to be an affront to common sense as well as our constitutional principles.

Since the 2000 census, Pinal County's surge in population has had a remarkable side effect for politics - as the once rock-solid Democratic stronghold has been awash in new voters who register as Republicans.

For years, state and local Republican activists have been eagerly anticipating the day when shifting voter registration would translate to far more power. They saw the first successes in 2008 when Bryan Martyn of Gold Canyon was elected to the Board of Supervisors, Paul Babeu, a former Chandler police officer, was elected sheriff and Frank Pratt was elected to the state House.

But those victories came later, and in fewer numbers, than many Republicans believe should be occurring. Unwilling to wait for the next official census, Republican lawmakers have been trying since 2004 to expand the Board of Supervisors from three to five members (the same as Maricopa County) with the expectation that both new members would be from their party.

A larger GOP advantage in the Legislature this year, and a new Republican governor, meant the law finally passed. But it won't go into effect, as a Superior Court judge ruled last week the statute violates the state and federal constitutions in a variety of ways.

Some Republican leaders, such as Martyn, claim failure to expand the board means areas of Pinal County with the fastest population growth are woefully underrepresented in county government. But the Legislature didn't order Pinal County to redraw any political boundaries or attempt to balance out voter registration numbers across the planned five supervisor districts.

Sen. Al Melvin, a Republican who lives in southern Pinal County near Tucson, freely admitted to Capitol Media Services last week that the sole intent of the measure was to put the two Democratic supervisors in the minority.

"It's political control of the county," Melvin said.

For the record, county Democrats still have a slight edge over Republicans in total voter registrations, according to the latest results from the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. So this blatant partisan gerrymandering to stack the Board of Supervisors turns out to be an affront to common sense as well as our constitutional principles.

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