PHOENIX - The Independent Redistricting Commission gave final approval Tuesday to the maps that will govern Arizona politics for the coming decade - maps the two Republicans on the panel say are rigged to favor Democrats.
The 3-2 votes came after Colleen Mathis, a registered political independent who chairs the panel, sided with the two Democrats. Republican Richard Stertz said that was no surprise, all but saying Mathis was a Democratic plant.
Scott Freeman, the other Republican on the panel, charged the adopted maps were actually drawn by Democratic outsiders and spoon-fed to the commission. He said the last nine months of hearings were essentially a sham "results-oriented process."
Democrat Jose Herrera said the numbers prove otherwise, pointing out the final maps create 16 legislative districts where Republicans have an edge, 10 that lean Democratic and four competitive. He also said four of the nine congressional districts are likely to elect Republicans, with two Democratic districts and three that are competitive.
Freeman, however, said a closer look shows that's a lie. He laid out the case for what he said is a biased result that could form the basis for a legal challenge.
The final votes echo what has been a familiar pattern since the commission's first days after choosing Mathis.
She was the deciding vote in rejecting who the Republicans wanted as their legal counsel. Mathis also pushed to hire Strategic Telemetry, a firm with close ties to Democrats and which did work for Barack Obama in his presidential bid, as the consultant to help draw the maps.
The latter act formed part of the basis for the decision by Gov. Jan Brewer to try to fire Mathis, contending she had conversations with others ahead of awarding that contract that violated the state's Open Meetings Law. While the Republican-controlled state Senate ratified the firing, the decision was overturned by the Arizona Supreme Court.
The bickering was no less intense on Tuesday.
"The whole process is, in my opinion, substantively flawed because it is one person in the state of Arizona that is really the linchpin in making the decisions," Stertz told Mathis, contending she has routinely taken the side of the Democrats.
"I've got my theories and the public's got their theories about why that might be," he said. "But they are purely theories: They're purely just suppositions."
One of the charges against Mathis was she hid her husband's ties to the Democratic Party, including that he had been the treasurer in the unsuccessful bid by Nancy Young Wright to retain her seat in the state House in 2010. Mathis said her failure to disclose that information, which was only learned after she was chosen as chair, was an oversight.
And Freeman said Herrera's claims that the maps are fair are not borne out.
As proof he cited the newly created 9th Congressional District, a crescent-shaped area carved out of parts of Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and south Scottsdale.
Freeman said an analysis of the votes in 2010 - a year Republicans did spectacularly well in Arizona in both legislative and congressional elections - shows voters in that district would have elected Terry Goddard as governor and Felecia Rotellini as attorney general. Both Democrats lost statewide.
And more voters in the newly created district supported Obama in 2008 than Arizona Republican John McCain.
"Now, Democrats call that a competitive district," Freeman said. He went on to complain about Congressional District 1, which had been competitive but will now have a 10-point Democratic tilt.
Tuesday's vote is legally not the last word. The maps will now be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure that the new lines comply with the Voting Rights Act.
Freeman, however, said he believes that, too, is a sham.
"The deal has already been done with the Obama administration," he said.
Commission attorney Mary O'Grady said the feds will have 60 days after the maps are finally submitted to say if they have objections.