- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Allegations of gerrymandering and stacked commissions flew across the House floor as lawmakers debated the merits of a voter-elected Independent Redistricting Commission.

The House initially approved a proposal Thursday that would let voters decide who serves on the commission that draws state and congressional legislative districts.

Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert sponsored the measure that would allow voters to elect the five members of the Independent Redistricting Commission, which currently include two members of each party and one independent.

Petersen said the commission as it stands has no accountability. The solution is to leave the decision to voters, he said.

But Democrats say electing the commission members would create a partisan battle waged by pocketbooks to elect lobbyists and politicians.

Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, said the commission would likely be stacked with Republicans and doubted Independents would be able to get any seats.

“This bill should have changed the name from the Independent Redistricting Commission to highly biased redistricting commission because that’s all it will be,” he said.

Republicans countered saying the commission is already biased.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, called the commission a dismal failure and said she believes the sole Independent on the commission is a Democratic plant.

Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, went further saying he believes Arizona is probably one of the most gerrymandered states in the country.

“Gerrymandering and other such political shenanigans have been going on a long time,” he said.

Eleven Republican voters sued Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission after new legislative maps were adopted in 2012. A panel of federal judges recently found the commission did not violate the Constitution’s equal-protection clause.

The House initially approved House Concurrent Resolution 2009 Thursday. It now awaits a formal vote.

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