Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Minority-Majority; Minority-Influence; Native Gerrymandering - Redistricting Board Eyes Voting Rights Act

The Alaska Redistricting Board began its meeting at 2pm today and looked at the Native districts.  They're looking for ways to comply the the Federal Voting Rights Act.  Alaska is one of 16 states of the watch list - their redistricting has to be pre-cleared by the Department of Justice before it is adopted.  There can be no 'retrogression' - meaning, Native representation can't be less than it is.

As I write this and as I google for more information, I can't find anything specific to Alaska on this.  I think I'm on the cusp of understanding this but I need to ask more questions tomorrow to get it right.

In any case, some definitions:

Minority-Majority District means a district where a minority group has a majority - 50% or more is what they said in the meeting.

Minority-Influence (or sometimes Effective) District means a district where a minority has enough people to have a strong influence in the election.

There's lots more to write up, but it will have to wait, otherwise I won't get anything up.  But there is a discussion of the Minority-Majority districts and the Voting Rights Act and these issues here.  It begins with:
Through the VRA, the federal government moved to guarantee access for all citizens to the ballot. Even so, the right to vote did not necessarily translate into electing representatives for voters who were in the minority. In jurisdictions, particularly in the South, voters who historically had faced racial discrimination (African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Pacific Americans and Native Americans) had been unable to elect candidates of their choice unless they constituted a majority of voters in a given electoral district. In 1982, Congress amended the VRA to include requirements that certain jurisdictions provide minority voters opportunities to elect candidates of their choice

The most interesting part of the meeting today, for me, was when Jim Holm spoke.  He's been pretty quiet and he may have said more in that moment today than he has in all the meetings.

Chair Torgerson had just presented his own proposal (after they'd gone over several others) and said that we can get up to nine Minority-Majority and Minority-Influence districts but it means taking some from the urban areas like Wasilla and Fairbanks.
Holms said this was racial gerrymandering.  Staff attorney White  responded.  You can go down to read it at the bottom of my notes on the session.

[NORMAL DISCLAIMER:  These are my notes during the meeting.  As fast as I can type, I still miss a lot, but this should give a sense of the meeting.  It's pretty rough, I'll try to clean it up later.]

Alaska Redistricting Board  April 5, 2011

2:02 pm  Open meeting
Roll Call - All members here
STaff - Taylor Bickford, Jim Ellis, Eric (new GIS guy) , and Brenda (who is new)
Approve Agenda - yes

Focus on Rural and get the Minority Representation figured out

Torgerson passing out licorice

Starting with Fair and Equitable Plan (Republican Plan) - they have a much better projection system today - it’s much sharper and I can take better photos. 

Torgerson:  Basic flaw in this plan is that the percentages aren’t high enough

They have three majority and one influence and two really close.

Also assumes we would take an influence district that is not contiguous and connect with another to make a Senate district. 

Looking at SE:  Can we change 1 or 3 colors so easier to see different districts.

Chair Torgerson is back in charge after yesterday when Brody took over in the afternoon. 
Torg:  Balance of Baranof island minus Sitka is 2000 people and this plan takes that into consideration.  Eric and I used Indian River as a boundary of the district.  From here to rest of Baranof is 2000. 

McC (McC is for PeggyAnn McConnochie):   A lot I like, but some districts I don’t.  Sitka shouldn’t be split.  The argument that they get to swipes at the apple doesn’t work with more representatives.  It’s too small.
2 looks like Metlakatla - picture -
Torgerson:  Anyone in Hyder?  it says 0.
McC:  A few.  They’re missing opportunities in se.  they came around the left and the back up and jump to get Haines and Skagway and Yakutat and there’s really no population in some of those areas.  Yesterday we went around the left to the west coast that they haven’t been able to include here.  Interesting they went to the east instead of the west. 

Torg:  Focused on rural influence district.  Anyone think we can’t get one in SE?
McC:  Deviance will be bigger.  Smaller communities have lost population, so it’s tougher, but I think we can. 
Holm:  You talking about majority?
Torg:  No, there’s an influence district now.  It’s not going to be pretty.  Always an island district.
White:  Absent something extraordinary, were fairly free in terms of compactness. 
Torg:  We can skip around?
White:  Always odd shape, need to comply with voting act.
Torg:  Is this going to be contiguous?  Using the water?
White:  Always use water.  My concern is using outside ocean for contiguous which is what the ER one does.  State territorial waters.  Saying 2 is contiguous because they cross between 3 and 3 in the middle where Hoonah is.
Torg:  when you say go to the left, would we take Sitka in? 
McC:  yes
Greene:  You say pushing, can you explain.
White:  They’re saying contiguity from Hoonah. 
Mc:  I agree.  You cut at Hydaburg and you can go west, it’s a much cleaner district than doing what they’ve done using the waterway as continuity.
White:  I think they tried to do that to get Hoonah and Sitka together.
Mc:  You have to look at SE differently.  I tried to get geographic first, then socio-economically linked.  Looked at color of the population.  I made a decision I wouldn’t accept before - Ketchikan, Wrangell, and ??? separate.  But now I do.  It now catches the small communities that are primarily native.  Yeah I’m off by couple 100.  I willing to split up Hoonah, Sitka, Ketchikan.  It’s not reasonable for such small towns to be split.  So I’m ready for a 1% deviation to have more.
White:  And you have an influence district?
Mc:  Yes I do:  35%, just barely. 
White:  Does anyone think we can’t draw an influence district in the se.
You said they claim 37 as a majority.  Not reflected.  But they say by moving 37 up they get a majority-minority. 
Torg:  We have a 6 sort of 42%, 37 is - two senators that’s six, one influence, that’s seven. 
White:  they say that five is. 
Torg:  No, we have a cutoff of 35%, The plan may say it, but our data doesn’t say it.
What do they say 4 has now?  This one has new numbers - it shows 26%
Let’s do it this way:  potential for 2 and 5 and that would give us 9 minorities.
Holm:  Then we’d have non-contiguous Senate
Torg:  We have to change that.  2 is now 4. 
Mc: Whoa!
Torg:  That would work as 9 then, as long as the SE one butts up against 5 - takes in yakutat, whatever this is going to be.  Two influence districts.
White:  In theory it’s there, but I don’t agree with their numbers.
Bickford:  But that leaves three districts in SE and you have to pair one up with someone.
Holm:  South Anchorage.
MC:  Thanks! (sarcastic)
White:  I just don’t think they have the numbers.
Torg:  This shows they don’t.    What’s next?
AFFR plan?  [this is unions, native group plan]

Bickford:  This computer only counts white and native.
1:35pm MC:  SE first?
Torg:  2 is their rural district it looks like, they got to 34%.  This looks like what we did yesterday.
White:  They’re claiming 8.
Torg:  Cut Yakutat in half, I don’t know how many people there.  Made 3
White:  Almost exactly the same as Juneau plan.
Torg:  Kecthikan;  Petersburg with 2, Wrangell goes with Ketchikan. 
Mc:  Economically it makes sense for Wrangell and Ketchikan be split, but the towns themselves should not be split.
Torg:  If we took Saxman out, it would be 35, I think.
Bickford:  They used different categories to calculate natives
White:  What board used last time - Native plus White.
Bickford: I believe if you added it it would take it over 35.  This is just the math and it gets whatever ????
Torg:  You would get 3261?
Bickford:  Both total native and % native is Native and Native and White.  There’s no way to import their data configuration, just the math.  Just can’t do it.  If we knew what categories they used, we can add it to ours.
Torg:  How do we resolve that.
White:  We have to see what DOJ counts as Alaska Native.  Last time only Native and Native + 1.  If we can count more as Native that would help.
Torg:  Will our consultant help?  We’ll have to wait for her to come on Friday.
Bickford:  Not Native + Black, Asian, etc.
Torg:  Our stuff is all consistent right?
Bickford:  Right.
White:  They have three districts at about 50 or above.  12 -  [How did we get to Palmer?] 
Ellis:  It splits Palmer - right down the middle of the valley
Torg:  They have Valdez is 12 and Cordova in 36. 

[Today’s discussion seems more focused and considering more than numbers, but they are trying to get the Native majority and Native influence districts set up.  I’ll try to get some video of this for contrast.]

Torg:  39 is Nome to Border down to McCarthy.
MC:  What do you think about going across State like that. going across for different tribal areas.
Greene:  Would be interested in the testimony we have.  Would definitely be something new.  I’ve lived there for years.  ??? Has communication increased? 
White:  They’re data different again.  They have 50.1
Bickford:  Show 39 53 people over populated.  It takes part of Fairbanks and Tok, but you could take those out and still be within the deviation. 
Brody:  Require a lot of thought to take road system area and connect to roadless.
Torg:  7
Bickford: 7 takes in top of what used to be 12.
Torg:  Valdez went with Kodiak?  So 38 then is Bethel, and went into 6 and picked up their population.  87% Native.  37 is down the chain, fit in all they could - all  - you think that will also be a minority.  It’s 50 or 49.
Bickford:  If not using three races it’s under 50%.
Torg:  This wouldn’t be a bad map if not tied into border from Nome and Wade=Hampton area in Fairbanks.  But other than that, their presentation is good.   Basically four districts and one influence.  39 and 7 tough to swallow.  Hoping we can get the good stuff from different maps.

Torg:  To Bush Caucus Plan - 5 majority - one influence.

Looking at SE - I took some video -
Torg:  We do have our influence district.  Now up 39 - Mother of all mothers, north of McCarthy to Nome, goes down and picks up Unalakleet too.  How do they deal with Fairbanks?  Clear out of there  Did they complete 6?  Also a minority district. 
Bickford:  6 comes over top of North Star Borough. 
Holm:  Leaves out Salcha and picks up Eilson.
Torg:  Put Eilson in with 6? 
Bickford:  Not all, but have base, other areas just farm area, not many people. 
Torg:  37 goes to Dutch I assume, takes in Tyonek.  A lot of plans take in Tyonek.  Kodiak is with Cordova? 
Bickford: yes all the way to Cordova.
Torg:  35?  Kenai Peninsula, including Seward. 
Bickford:  Will probably only gets 4 Matsu seats when their population gives them five.  Splits them 3 ways.
Torg:  Not their intent I don’t think.  Just divide their population by 17,755 isn’t going to get 5.  Zero in on Palmer. 

Torg:  What we’re doing now is racial gerrymandering.  I don’t know how you get around it.  Taking areas so we get the numbers.
Bickford:  The native percentage is really high.  We could give up 4000 here and make it up with population in this area. 
Torg:  Any more on Bush Caucus 4-2? 
Holm:  No 5-1. 
Torg:  I think mine is next.  Load it.  OK, take short break at 3:17pm. 

Torg 3:20:  what I was trying to do.  This is district 4 here, really no one living here, but it touches SE
White: Your plan?
Torg:  dealing with rural only.  Trying to get rid of uglies.  But this is also ugly.  Puts Nome and Kotz together.  6 gets almost to Fairbanks
. . .
Looking at 37 - possibly could drop some villages and get it up to 50%
Torg:  Real goal - can we get 9 districts that don’t take in Fairbanks.  Conclusion - we can but it’s ugly.
Greene:  Why do you have Bethel and Dutch Harbor together.
White:  Continuity issues.
Torg:  Not more than the Kodiak one.  Also Kotzebue and Nome.
White:  DOJ will look beyond just the numbers.  Major SE difference.  Some plans pair native incumbents against non-native incumbents. 
MC:  3 in with Sitka
Miller:  4 in with 5
Torg:  SE what I wanted to do is start in with Nichole???  Idea was to run 1 north and not make it a majority, came out of SE thru Yakutat along Canadian Border, and dropping 40 down - get a skinny 39 down the coast.  But fallout is Kotz and Nome (pairing of incumbents) would this ease the pain of making this 37 go all the way up to Yukon-K area.   I guess where we’re at.  If were going to have 9 majority districts.  we’re going to have to take urban populations.  No other way to do it. 

AFFER does that.  But has other problems.  I like parts of other plans.
Greene:  Have staff work with those plans.  Did you do SE too?
Torg:  What remained?  Anything?  Started with Metlakatla.
Eric:  I believe we got it up to - about 40% - we went all the way to Northway, Eagle, Chicken…
Torg:  ONe time we did that, but didn’t leave that one.  You said you got 46%. 
What you do is eliminate the problem.  Anyway, that’s our look at rural district.  Not sure how to lead us thru the discussion of what to do next.  If our goal is to have nine districts, lets do that and be prepared for them to take large chunks out of the urban areas. 

How about tomorrow.  Will you (Mc) have SE ready to go over?  Keep in mind we’ll want two or three plans so folks will have a contrast, something else to look at, so be thinking about that also.  I think I’ll hijack Eric and continue on the rural districts and take … everyone and see if we can come up with something with the rural.  Jim, will we have Fairbanks to rock and roll tomorrow?
Holm:  Depends on how the rural districts take parts of Fairbanks.
Torg:  If we drop down one, we have retrogression.  How to avoid?
White:  Have to show no lesser retrogressive plan can be drawn.
Torg:  I’m struggling with taking Matsu and Fairbanks down a district.
Holm:  I’m not fine with that.  But one man one vote.  If we say they have enough for five districts, then we have to do that.
White:  Not really, there was a Kenai case.  US Constitution trumps state law.  There is some room.  There isn’t going to be violation unless there is intentional discrimination.  If there is the court won’t allow and deviance from proportionality.
Holm:  You’re saying racial gerrymandering is ok.
White:  No, racial gerrymandering is not allowed
Holm:  If you are moving people around aren’t you doing that?
White:  Laughing, If I could answer that I’d been on the SC. 
Holm:  that’s as good an answer as any because I don’t expect you to be a SC justice.  Folks in Willow will have the same concern.  I don’t know how you’re going to draw it.  We can live with these, then this is how you draw your populations to make things whole.  Then the differential between one percent and ten percent, will really make a difference in the size of the districts.  It’s possible we can take less people from the majority area with 16,000 people instead of 18,000.
Torg:  Exactly what Eric and I were doing.
White:  I think you would be justified.  Decide, for the numbers game, in the rural areas we’re going to have larger deviation, under 10%, then I could probably defend that.  If we say we did it because of the voting rights act, they would say it is trumped by one man one vote.  But you could say we need to have 5% deviation in rural areas so that we don't mess with the rural areas.
Brody:  So far we’ve been going north and south.  What if we go east and west.
Torg:  I think taking out of Anchorage is worse than in rural areas. 
Brody:  people are people.
Torg:  I think rural Wasilla is more rural than Anchorage.
White:  There is excess population in Fairbanks you have to do something with. 
Torg:  We grabbed it.  Including Dutch Harbor with bethel was just an experiment.  I just wanted to see what it looked like. 
Brody:  Quarter of the state. 
Torg:  Put NW arctic back in the way it was.
Bickford:  What you did, didn’t save Fairbanks.

[Then I switched to video and I’ll get that up soon {wishful thinking?)] [There's only a couple of minutes and I'll add it later.  Sorry.  Nothing crucial, it's the winding up of the meeting and dividing of work and staff for tomorrow morning, but you get a flavor of the meeting you can't get from the notes.]

UPDATE Midnight:  Here's the video of the end of the meeting. It gives a sense of style of the meetings.

1 comment:

  1. What you are doing here is of great service to those of us who can't get to these meetings. This board is planning the next 10-12 years of Alaska political life and you are letting us be there to get a clue as to how these decisions are being made.


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