Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Before you get upset and spit out your coffee over the mere thought of the idea of adding more elected representatives to the Arizona Legislature, hear me out.
I have always believed that there should be a per capita formula for the number of residents served by state legislators. As the population increases (or decreases) the number of legislative districts would be adjusted accordingly every ten years with the decennial federal census.
Arizona has used a federal court panel imposed 30 districts, with 30 senators and 60 house members, since 1966 -- when Arizona's population was slightly more than one million. (Prior to this, Arizona had 28 senators, two for each of the then 14 counties, and 80 representatives). There is nothing magical about this 30 district formula, it just requires proportional representation to maintain the "one man, one vote" rule of Reynolds v. Sims.
As of the 2010 federal census, Arizona has an estimated 6.39 million residents. U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Arizona's 2010 Census Population Totals (links to census data). This is a six-fold increase in the number of residents represented by state legislators since 1966.
How does this representation compare to other states of similar population on a per capita basis? The best comparative data I can find is based upon a census data estimate from 2009. This data, of course, will have to be adjusted for the 2010 federal census data. But it is close enough to make my point. State Population vs State Legislature - CompareXY: A Comparison Library:
Below is a data table that compares the relative ranking of state populations (U.S. Census Bureau 2009 estimates) to the representation of their respective internal state legislatures.
The rankings tend to, but not completely, trend along the lines of the most populated states having the least internal representation by their state legislatures per capita to the lesser populated states tending to have the most representation.
The population of California by a factor of more than 2x has the least representation at the state legislature per capita than the next least represented state, Texas. California residents are more than 98x less represented internally than residents of New Hampshire, the most represented at the state legislature per capita.
Note: I have selected the states with comparable populations to create the table below.
As you can see, Arizona ranks among the states with the least representation based upon per capita representation by district. Expanding to 40 districts would put us back into the mid-range by comparison to other states.
This is important to the work of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (the web site has not yet been updated). Proposition 106 (2000) which established the commission requires the commission to consider these criteria:
(14) THE INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION SHALL ESTABLISH CONGRESSIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS. THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE MAPPING PROCESS FOR BOTH THE CONGRESSIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS SHALL BE THE CREATION OF DISTRICTS OF EQUAL POPULATION IN A GRID-LIKE PATTERN ACROSS THE STATE. ADJUSTMENTS TO THE GRID SHALL THEN BE MADE AS NECESSARY TO ACCOMMODATE THE GOALS AS SET FORTH BELOW:
A. DISTRICTS SHALL COMPLY WITH THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND THE UNITED STATES VOTING RIGHTS ACT;
B. CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS SHALL HAVE EQUAL POPULATION TO THE EXTENT PRACTICABLE, AND STATE LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS SHALL HAVE EQUAL POPULATION TO THE EXTENT PRACTICABLE;
C. DISTRICTS SHALL BE GEOGRAPHICALLY COMPACT AND CONTIGUOUS TO THE EXTENT PRACTICABLE;
D. DISTRICT BOUNDARIES SHALL RESPECT COMMUNITIES OF INTEREST TO THE EXTENT PRACTICABLE;
E. TO THE EXTENT PRACTICABLE, DISTRICT LINES SHALL USE VISIBLE GEOGRAPHIC FEATURES, CITY, TOWN AND COUNTY BOUNDARIES, AND UNDIVIDED CENSUS TRACTS;
F. TO THE EXTENT PRACTICABLE, COMPETITIVE DISTRICTS SHOULD BE FAVORED WHERE TO DO SO WOULD CREATE NO SIGNIFICANT DETRIMENT TO THE OTHER GOALS.
The job of the commission would be much easier to meet these criteria to create not just competitive districts, but more representative districts, if the number of districts depended upon a per capita formula of representation by district.
It would improve the quality of constituent services, if not the quality of governance at the Arizona Legislature.