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Your once-in-a-decade opportunity to influence the future of Arizona politics

In 2020, Asian Americans were the fastest growing voting block. Many of them were first time voters, and a majority were naturalized citizens. As our communities grow older, the next generation of Asian voters will be the largest block of first generation American born voters. Typically Asian American voters engage actively during the presidential elections and are less active during midterm elections (the 2 years between presidential elections). While participating in the presidential elections is very important, it is equally important for the Asian community to become engaged in the electoral process during non-presidential election years. Votes and voices of diverse communities are essential to ensuring fair representation. They can help break partisan inaction in the U.S. Congress and support passage of state legislation that serves the interest of all communities.

The growth of Asian American influence and power extends beyond the political sphere into all aspects of American society. Census data shows that the Asian American community contributes nearly $1.1 trillion to the economy every year, and owns businesses that employ 3.6 million Americans across the country. As business owners, consumers, and active members of America’s economy, Asian Americans have an important role in shaping the future of our collective communities.

Understanding who represents you in the US Congress and at the Arizona Legislature:

Every 10 years, as required by the U.S. Constitution, a census (or count) of the population of the U.S. is conducted. This census count is used to determine how many Representatives each state has in Congress. Additionally, the census data is used to determine the districts from which you elect representatives to the Arizona Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives. Having fair representation is essential to our democracy. Beyond having fair representation, the census count also determines the amount of federal funding for schools, roads, and other services.

Each state has two U.S. senators, elected at large. Arizona has nine Congressional districts; voters in each of the nine districts elect one representative to the U.S. House of Representatives. The Arizona Legislature has two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are 30 Arizona legislative districts, and Arizona voters in each district elect one senator to the Arizona Senate and two representatives to the Arizona House of Representatives.

The decisions made by policymakers and our representatives at all levels of government impact our day-to-day lives. However, if members of Asian communities aren’t at the table or in positions where they can influence policy decisions, their needs and voices are often ignored or forgotten.

Fair representation in the U.S. Congress and the state legislature ensures that the power of the vote is not diluted for any community and that elected legislators represent the needs of their entire district -- not just special interests. In a representative democracy, voters elect representatives to make laws. Ensuring the direct effect of your vote on your representatives in Congress and on those who make laws in our state, is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.

Some Redistricting History

Prior to 2000, Arizona’s district maps were drawn by legislators with political interests who could create maps that would ensure their reelection. The changing demographics and social and political interests of the communities in their districts might not be fairly represented. Districts could be gerrymandered--drawn specifically to be extremely partisan and to benefit incumbents. Gerrymandering is often aimed at diluting the power of the vote of certain communities. It stifles opportunities for candidates from all political parties to compete in elections and results in low voter turnout.

In 1999, the voters of Arizona approved a ballot initiative, PROP 106, to amend the Arizona Constitution for the purpose of "... ending the practice of gerrymandering and improving voter and candidate participation in elections by creating an independent commission of balanced appointments to oversee the mapping of fair congressional and legislative districts following the decennial census."

The IRC draws maps only for congressional and state legislative districts. The IRC does not draw boundaries for city wards, county supervisor districts, school districts, etc.

Where you live determines your district and the candidates you get to vote for. The Arizona IRC determines the geographic boundaries for each congressional and legislative district. Maps drawn for districts must meet six criteria: 1) Comply with U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights laws; 2) Have equal population; 3) Be geographically compact and contiguous; 4) Follow geographical features and municipal boundaries; 5) Respect communities of interest; 6) Be competitive.

How does the work of the IRC impact me?

The impact of the maps drawn by the IRC is felt for over two decades. The maps they draw will strengthen or dilute the power of your vote. The impact will be felt among the emerging block of voting age populations in our communities, impacting the power of their vote to select the representative of their choice.

Ensuring that communities of immigrant first- and second-generation voters have fair representation and a direct influence on our lawmakers is essential. It will ensure that elected officials address the social, cultural, political, and economic interests of these communities.

Presenting IRC commissioners with the boundaries of your community is the best way to help them meet the communities of interest provision. When the IRC draws its maps, we want our communities and their vote to have power. When district boundaries are drawn, our communities need to be watchful that these boundaries do not break up our communities such that the power of the vote is diluted.

I want to get involved. How should I do this?

1. Educate yourself about redistricting at irc.az.gov or redistrictingonline.org.

2. Learn more about the census data. Follow this link to the latest information about data releases coming up: https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/07/upcoming-release-of-2020-census-redistricting-data-paint-clearer-portrait-of-america.html

3. Become informed about the IRC!

a) Explore the IRC website (https://irc.az.gov/)
b) Subscribe to the IRC newsletter (https://irc.az.gov/content/sign-our-newsletter)
c) Watch the IRC meetings on YouTube (https://ir.az.gov/public-meetings)

4. Give testimony at IRC public hearings. Lift up the voices and needs of your community. The IRC has begun a series of listening tours to hear from the public, especially about their communities of interest, and has invited residents to participate in its first round of statewide public hearings which began July 23 and will continue through August 9, 2021. Information will be presented both in person and virtually about the redrawing of Arizona’s congressional and legislative districts. The IRC will use public comments received during these meetings to help inform the drawing of new district boundaries. Tell the Commissioners what you like or don’t like about your current district. Let them know about your communities of interest that shouldn’t be divided by redistricting. Take a friend or people from your neighborhood with you! Stand up and voice your opinions! Be heard! Commission Chair Erika Neuberg urges all Arizonans to attend one of these important hearings to ensure their voices will be heard.

5. Attend the Testimony Training offered by the League of Women Voters of Arizona (LWVAZ) before you go to the public hearings. You will learn about the IRC, the importance of public hearings and giving testimony, and best practices for preparing and giving public testimony. Learn how to tell your story.
Saturday, July. 31, 2-3:30pm
Monday, Aug. 2, 12 noon-1:30pm
Monday, Aug. 2, 6-7:30pm
Thursday, Aug. 5, 12 noon-1:30pm
Saturday, Aug. 7, 2-3:30pm

The League of Women Voters of Arizona encourages members of the Southeast Asian and all Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities to attend these hearings, especially as community groups. This is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to shape our state! There is strength in numbers - bring a friend or neighbor to share their story, too!

To learn more about League work in redistricting, please contact us via email at [email protected].

Contributor(s): Pinny Sheoran, League of Women Voters of Arizona President-Elect. Pinny is Asian Indian and has lived in Scottsdale, Arizona for over 40 years.
Betty Bengtson, LWVAZ Advocacy Committee member and Coordinator of the League’s People Powered Fair Maps initiative. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

The League of Women Voters is a 100+-year-old non-partisan organization that neither supports or opposes any candidates or political party. The League has been fighting for voting rights and fair representation and was a leader in helping pass the ballot measure that created the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

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