Controversy swirls over redistricting ouster

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PHOENIX, Ariz.--On Tuesday the state senate voted to fire the chair of the Independent Redistricting Commission. Now the people who wrote the voter-approved amendment establishing the IRC say the legislature has undermined the will of the voters.

"I was appalled. It's so inappropriate," said Ann Eschinger.

Eschinger is a democrat-turned-republican who, along with democrat Dennis Michael Burke and republican Bart Turner, drafted the voter-approved proposition 106 back in 1999.

Their goal was to separate the redistricting process from political interests.

"You cant have a fair election if you don't have a fair redistricting process and in order to create that fair process we took it away from the legislature and gave it to an independent commission," said Turner. "The legislature now--the governor and the senate have gone and undermined the work and the will of the voters by doing that."

The IRC has five members.

According to the state constitution, a member can be removed by the Governor and two-thirds majority of the senate for "substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of the office."

Governor Brewer accuses Mathis of holding meetings behind closed doors and failing to adjust the so-called grid map.

But the amendment's authors say Mathis has not done anything that constitutes gross misconduct.

"We put a paragraph in that constitutional amendment that you could get rid of the chairperson, if he or she did something egregious and we were thinking bribery or total incompetence," said Burke.

"Not that they happened to be chair of a process that came up with competitive maps that upset one of the political parties."

Mathis' attorney says he expects to file a legal challenge to the ouster as early as Friday.

The IRC is set to continue with public hearings as usual.

On Monday the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the nominating process for a vacancy on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The meeting is open to the public. Citizens may address the commission about the nominating process at 1:00 p.m. on November 7, 2011. Public comment cannot be accepted after the 1:00 p.m. hearing.

 The meeting will be held in Room 101 of the Arizona State Courts Building, 1501 West Washington, Phoenix, 85007.