Friday, April 08, 2011

Can the Board Keep to Nine Native Districts? What is Contiguous?

I'm trying to figure out how to write about the Redistricting Board the last couple of days.  They are playing with the software trying to find ways to make maps that meet all the criteria.  I say 'playing' very consciously.  This is very much like a computer game.

The Goal:

Make 40 districts each with 17,755 people, give or take a percent or two.


No Retrogression

That's what they've been struggling with the last two days.

The current districts include NINE native districts.  Let me clarify.  There are 6 House districts that are either minority-majority or minority-influence districts (see this previous post for explanation) and three Senate districts.  These are:

Incumbent Senate
Minority Influence*       
5 Bill Thomas Jr. (R) C Albert Kookesh (D) 5?

6 Alan Dick (R) C Albert Kookesh (D)

37 Bryce Edgmon (D) S Lyman Hoffman (D) 37 - S

38 Bob Herron (D) S Lyman Hoffman (D) 38 - S

39 Neal Foster (D) T Donny Olson (D) 39 -T

40 Reggie Joule (D) T Donny Olson (D) 40 -T

 *I'm not 100% sure about which districts are Minority-Majority and Minority-Influence.  I'll try to get that confirmed tomorrow. [TB, if you read this, please correct it in the comments.]

The question on the Board's mind - at least on Chair Torgerson's - was whether the Board could avoid any retrogression by creating nine Native majority or influence districts and still meet the state's requirements for compact, socially and economically integrated districts.  They had a plan with nice [nine]. but with a Senate seat made up of two non-contiguous House seats.

Because of Alaska's huge area, unique shape (narrow strips - SE between water and Canada, Aleutians, islands spread out 1200 miles across the ocean), and very sparse population, we already have some districts that are hardly compact.

So they were able to come up with a plan that had nine native districts, but in order to do that, they had to pair a House district in Ketchikan in the southeast with one in Kodiak to make a Native senate district.  So, the answer was yes.  You can see that explained in the first video. 

But could 'contiguous' mean connected over a large expanse of water?  That's the question Chair Torgerson asks in the second video?

But, could the meaning of 'contiguous' be stretched to cover two house districts (one in Ketchikan and one in Kodiak) over a large expanse of ocean to make a Native senate seat? That's the question Torgerson asks attorney White in the second video.

Wednesday it appeared they were going to really try to get to nine Native districts. Thursday it wasn't so certain, though Eric, the GIS guy, had come up with another way to get nine Native districts, but still 'ugly.'  Yesterday it seemed like they were going to find a way to do get nine.  Today,  it looked liked they were ready to settle for eight Native districts. But it sounds like they'll go forward with a plan for nine and one for eight. 

One thing I noticed was that the staffers who'd worked hard to get at least a Native-influence district out of SE said, "It can't be done." I think a more accurate way of saying it would be, "We couldn't figure out a way to do it." I don't know if it can be done more elegantly than they did it (because they did do it, though, as they said, "it was ugly"). But I suspect people with real skill and more experience with the software could do seemingly impossible things. Afterall, 30 years ago, people never imagined that people could do the stunts we see in sports like extreme skiing. But the board only has about six days to get the draft plan done.

I'm going to miss the Friday meeting because I have the Ole! blogging class at the same time as the board meeting.  But they'll be meeting Saturday and Sunday at 2pm as well.  They have til Friday to get a draft plan, so no time off.  And those of you who can't get there because of work - well, you can see them in action.  In the Yellow mall on 4th Avenue - 411 W. 4th.  Suite 203.

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