Rebukes from Republicans and derision from Democrats are characterizing early reactions to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's draft maps for new congressional and legislative districts.

The commission this week added a legislative map to the congressional draft it approved last week, and both are now subject to a busy schedule of two dozen public hearings between now and Nov. 5. At that time, the commission will make adjustments in the maps and take final votes on them.

Until then, politicians, political party representatives and ordinary citizens are rendering their opinions about the maps. Most of it is criticism.

"Let's just say we're not happy with the way the initial congressional maps were drawn," said Shane Wikfors, communications director for the Arizona Republican Party. He commented in an interview for Arizona Week.

"Basically, we believe that the commission turned the priorities articulated in Proposition 106 on its head and made the districts much more favorable and beneficial to the Democrats in this state," Wikfors said, referring to the congressional map and to the ballot measure that in 2000 was passed and became part of the Arizona Constitution, setting up the independent redistricting process.

He said Republicans have similar complaints with the legislative map, but not to the extent of their unhappiness with the congressional.

"And the funny thing is, with regard to voter registration in Arizona, Republicans do hold a voter registration edge," he said. "In fact, Democrats rank No. 3 when it comes to total voter registrations in Arizona."

Republicans have 35 percent of the registered voters and Democrats 31 percent. Independent voters total 33 percent.

The current congressional draft map shows four of the nine districts, or 44 percent of the districts, are heavily Republican, two of the nine, or 22 percent, are heavily Democratic, and three of the nine, or 33 percent, are competitive.

For that reason, Arizona Democratic Party Executive Director Luis Heredia said, the redistricting process should give more weight to independents. That means making more districts competitive by balancing the registration numbers in them.

"We feel that the commission really did not dive into the issue of competition," Heredia said, also in an interview for Arizona Week. "The map as it stands, the draft map, really favors the Republicans. Where they do call for competition, they lean heavily Republican."

"I think this commission has an opportunity to give voters, especially the large amount of independent voters, a choice," Heredia said. "And we're really, really working to try to emphasize how competition is measured."

Heredia's main complaints with the commission's work was with the legislative map, which he said has just four competitive districts. Other assessments have placed the number as high as nine, and Heredia said he would be comfortable with 10.

The Democrat said his party is generally satisfied with the congressional map, especially because it allows for clear-cut competition in three districts.

Schedule of public hearings on the draft maps: View at Google Docs | Download File

Reporter Michael Chihak further explores the redistricting issue on Arizona Week. Watch here: