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Between the Lines: Rep. Trent Franks Thinks DOJ Overstepped Role

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Trent Franks says the Department of Justice has overstepped its bounds collaborating with Arizona mapmaking officials. The proposed Congressional map favors Democrats.

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Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) accused the Justice Department of overstepping its "efforts to shape the process" of redistricting in his home state.

"We've asked the department to clarify what their actions are in that regard," Franks said in a phone interview last week. "It was a response to a belief on our part that they planned to shape that process."

It's not uncommon for Department of Justice staff to meet with officials in states that require preclearance of maps under the Voting Rights Act, such as Arizona. But Franks, chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee that oversees federal civil rights, suggested the Justice Department had inappropriate influence in private meetings with Arizona officials.

Franks refused to provide details when pressed for more information about his concerns, saying, "I'm not sure I can tell you any more than that." But he criticized the proposed changes to the map as the "worst-case scenario" for the GOP.

"We tried to draw one map that was our worst-case scenario, and it looked just like ours," Franks said.

Franks is one of several Republican officials in Arizona who are angry about the proposed changes. There's talk that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) could try to impeach the head of the committee, which would effectively start the redistricting process over again.

Arizona's commission has 30 days to collect feedback on the map. Once it passes a final version, it must submit it to the Justice Department for preclearance before it is implemented.

Maryland: O'Malley Gets an Earful From Angry Members

Some House Members are not happy with the newly proposed Congressional map and, one by one, they are expressing their concerns to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) before the Legislature takes up the issue next week.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D) raised concerns about minority representation in Montgomery County and met Monday with the governor and members of his redistricting advisory panel.

But Edwards' meeting did little to assuage her concerns. Calling the map "deeply flawed," she told Roll Call on Tuesday: "The word unhappy does not adequately reflect what's happening here."

The Congresswoman joins a bipartisan group of colleagues in their discontent with the new map. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R), whose redrawn 6th district will assure him of his toughest race in years, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) met with O'Malley last week to express their concerns.

Edwards, in a written statement, charged that the redraw goes against a 1992 Supreme Court ruling and "undermines the common interests in the 4th CD that have been recognized by the highest court in the land."

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