Guest Editorial: Rethinking The Arizona House

By Scottsdale Pinetop

Arizona continues to be a hot spot for new residents – even amid a global pandemic. The state is among the top five fastest-growing states in the U.S with a population of approximately 7.3 million.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2010 and 2019, Arizona’s population grew by 9.3% from migration alone, more than every other state with the exception of Florida and Nevada.

But you know what hasn’t grown? Arizona’s Legislature.

Under the current system, Arizona is divided into 30 legislative districts that contain about 243,000 residents. Every district elects two representatives and one senator to represent every constituent within that district. That’s a lot of ground to cover. To put that in perspective, the only states that have a higher ratio of residents to house members are California, Texas, Florida and New York.

However, two longtime Arizona lawmakers are determined to rethink how state government works. Sen. J.D. Mesnard (R) is proposing a constitutional amendment, known as SCR 1005, which seeks to divide each of the state’s 30 districts into three House districts to expand the state House to 90 members will leave the Senate at 30 members. And he’s got the support for fellow Republican Sen. T.J. Shope.

“The more constituents one represents, the worse the representation is,” Sen. Mesnard said in an interview with Arizona Capitol Times. “There’s only so much time in the day, only so much bandwidth to try to reach out to a large number of constituents.”

But not everyone is supportive of the proposal with most of the opposition coming from across the aisle. Some Democrats view this as a plan to over-represent red rural districts and bolster the Republican presence in the House. But this argument doesn’t make sense. Rather Democrats should be embracing this proposal.

Legislative districts are determined by population, not political party lines. And while redistricting 90 House districts instead of 30 would certainly create more rural areas, it would also create more urban and suburban areas that are generally known as Democrat strongholds. Sen. Mesnard’s proposal should be welcomed by Arizona Democrats as they continue to struggle when it comes to winning state legislature races.

But ultimately, this decision will be left to Arizona voters. Right now, SCR 1005 awaits hearings in the Senate Appropriation and Government committees. If approved, voters wouldn’t have the opportunity to approve or reject the plan until Nov. 2022. To me – it makes sense. Arizona’s legislature should reflect its constituents, not just in political views, but also in size. As our state continues to grow and grow, so should our government entities and elected officials. Let’s not be behind the eight-ball on this one.