Arizona lawmakers vote to approve GOP plan to divide Maricopa into 4 counties

Arizona Republicans say they are motivated to improve local representation not exact retaliation over the 2020 general election controversy.

Published: February 16, 2022 5:34pm

Updated: February 17, 2022 3:38am

(The Center Square) -

Arizona Republicans, stressing the value of local representation and denying retaliation over the 2020 general election controversy, have given early approval to legislation that would split Maricopa County into four counties.

Should Gov. Doug Ducey sign House Bill 2787, it would take the nation’s fourth-largest county and split it into four counties by June 15, 2023. Maricopa County would remain but would be much smaller and centralized around metropolitan Phoenix.

To the north, Mogollon County would include parts of North Phoenix, Scottsdale, Carefree and Cave Creek. Newly-formed O’odham County would contain Buckeye, Goodyear, Peoria and Surprise, as well as the large rural swath of land to the southeast of the valley. Hohokam County in the southeast would become home to Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Queen Creek.

Lawmakers in the House Government and Elections Committee approved the bill along party margins Wednesday.

Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, said his bill is about giving residents a government that would better represent local communities that might be different than the Phoenix population center.

“We are already 65% of the state population,” Hoffman said of Maricopa County in relation to the rest of the state. “If you represent southern Arizona, do you want Maricopa County, representing 65% of the power base in this state, consolidated and centralized into one single place?”

Maricopa County has a larger population than half of the U.S. states and more than 109 countries and territories, Hoffman said.

Democrats uniformly opposed the bill, saying carving up the county is retribution for officials opposing Republican efforts to overturn the 2020 general election results that determined President Joe Biden won the state’s 11 Electoral College votes over former President Donald Trump.

“This is not about representation,” Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, D-Avondale, said. “This is about putting more chips on the roulette table so that you can win your bet. One of these three counties, I’m sure, would have decertified the election in a heartbeat.”

Hoffman and other Republicans refuted the accusations.

“Any attempt to paint this as retaliation or retribution to the county is pure conspiracy theory,” Hoffman said. “To say that this has anything to do with the election is laughable and nothing more than a conspiracy theory.”

Hoffman noted there have been several other attempts to split the county.

Other Democrats said the cost of creating three new county governments would represent a taxpayer burden. Hoffman acknowledged the potential cost but maintained the benefits of local representation would outweigh cost, adding that counties could work together via intergovernmental agreements.

The measure still needs consideration in a couple of House committees and the full chamber before it can be sent to the Senate and then Ducey for his signature.

With a population of more than 4.4 million people, Maricopa County has a larger population than all but Los Angeles (California), Harris (Texas), and Cook (Illinois) counties. The original Arizona Territory consisted of Mohave, Pima, Yavapai and Yuma. Maricopa County was formed in 1871, more than 40 years before Arizona’s statehood in 1812. Maricopa’s boundaries were last changed in 1881 to carve out Gila County to the east.

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