Originally Published: April 10, 2012 9:56 p.m.
The U.S. Department of Justice has concluded that Arizona's new congressional districts comply with the Voting Rights Act.
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission submitted the congressional map to the Department of Justice on Feb. 9. It needs DOJ approval because of past violations of the Voting Rights Act that protects minority rights.
The DOJ has until April 30 to act on the map of new legislative districts that the commission submitted.
The DOJ approval clears the way for Arizona to use the congressional map in this year's elections.
Most of Yavapai County now is officially in the 4th Congressional District instead of the 1st Congressional District.
At least three Republicans have announced plans to run in the 4th District this year: Arizona Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Flagstaff, and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Only a threatened lawsuit could stall the use of the new congressional map.
Republican leaders have criticized the maps, especially the legislative one, saying the commission favored Democrats and metropolitan areas.
"There is a lawsuit coming," Gosar assured the crowd at a Highway 69 Republicans CD4 candidate forum in Dewey Monday.
"The Republican Party will sue, but I don't think it will change the lines for this election," Gould added at the same candidate forum. "The Democrats sued for six years and they never got anywhere." Democratic lawsuits over the 2001 maps were settled in 2004.
Gould also criticized the Arizona Supreme Court Monday for overturning Gov. Jan Brewer's removal of Redistricting Commission Chair Colleen Mathis back in November.
"We have an out-of-control judiciary in Arizona," Gould said.
Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, drew up alternative congressional and legislative maps this year, but the Legislature did not approve them by Feb. 15 so they could go to a statewide vote as Tobin proposed on May 15. Tobin also proposed a November election on his idea to expand the commission from five to 12 members so the commission would have more rural representation.
The Arizona Senate introduced a bill that sought to repeal the Independent Redistricting Commission, but it didn't get through the House. Its primary sponsors included Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, Sen. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, and Gould.
Voters created the redistricting commission in 2000, effectively taking redistricting powers away from the Legislature.
States redraw congressional and legislative boundaries every 10 years after the U.S. Census. Arizona gained a ninth congressional seat this time around because of its population growth.
Republicans dominate four of the nine new congressional districts, while Democrats have a large majority in three. The other two are highly competitive.
The latest voter registration counts show 36 percent of Arizona's registered voters are Republican and 30 percent are Democrats. Most of the rest are Independents.
Gosar moved from Flagstaff to Prescott so he could run in a Republican-dominated district instead of the new 1st Congressional District that has nearly 10 percent more Democrats than Republicans. He said he also wanted to continue to represent Yavapai County, which pushed him to victory two years ago over incumbent Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick of Flagstaff.
During the Dewey candidate forum Monday, Babeu criticized Gosar for moving from CD1 to CD4, where a Republican already was assured to win. Republicans have an 18-percent registration advantage in CD4. Kirkpatrick has announced her intention to try to regain the CD1 seat.
"Now we've got one district in our state in jeopardy, and that's District 1," Babeu said.
To see the approved maps, go to http://azredistricting.org/Maps/Final-Maps/default.asp