Friday, April 08, 2011

Redistricting Nationwide - NY Times Overview

While I've been focused on Alaska's redistricting, the New York Times today reminds me that this is going on across the country.  In most other states, though, there are two levels of redistricting - for Congressional seats AND for State Legislative seats.  In Alaska, since we have only one US House district, there's nothing to draw - the whole state is the district. 

A couple of more inclusive examples from the Times redistricting article mentioned are:
In Florida, political leaders have set up MyDistrictBuilder, a Web site that will allow voters to propose new, nonbinding maps for the state’s districts. And in Virginia, teams of students from area colleges entered a contest to design new Congressional maps to be considered by a bipartisan advisory commission appointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
[The link was to download what I assume is the program, but since there was nothing else except one blue button on the page, and I have a some other things to do today, I didn't try it.]

I've been thinking throughout this process that there should be ways for people to go online and play, "Redraw Alaska's Districts."  Right now it's nearly impossible for someone without the software to be able to draw lines and keep track of all the data necessary - particularly the actual number of people in each district and the percentage of Alaskan Natives in each district. [This is important because of the US Voting Rights Act, see more discussion on this in this prior post.]

The article says that nationally Democrats seem to be ahead in raising money to analyze data and litigate plans they don't like.
Democrats, aided by a ruling last year by the Federal Election Commission [I'm sure the FCC didn't write rules that gave Democrats preference over Republicans] that declared redistricting work exempt from some election financing restrictions, have set up a trust fund for litigation growing out of the redistricting. The trust’s structure will allow Democrats to raise unlimited amounts of “soft” money without running afoul of finance restrictions put in place in 2002 by the McCain-Feingold law, election lawyers say.
The Democrats’ fund-raising is intended to provide “the best data, the best ability to analyze the data, and the best legal team we can,” said Representative Mike Thompson, a California Democrat leading the party’s redistricting efforts across the country.
A good question would be whether any of that is coming to Alaskan Democrats.  I'd guess not since no Congressional seats are affected here.  But the regulars at the Board meetings are people from Alaskans For Fair Redistricting (Unions and Native organizations), a staffer from the Bush Caucus, John Harris (former Republican House Speaker), and less regularly, Randy Ruedrich (though he was back yesterday when the attorney reported his findings on Ruedrich's suggestion to count prisoners in their original home districts instead of at prison locations. The attorney said legally they had to use official Census Data and such block data with characteristics details like race won't be available until June and even then won't identify home addresses.  And if the numbers actually mattered, they would come so late in the process that it would be hard to change everything so late in the process.  But he doesn't think they'll matter anyway.)  Ruedrich, the state Republican chair, has been associated with Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting  (AFFER - a title that is a bit confusing since it's so close to AFFR). 

AFFR discloses clearly at the end of their report all the organizations they are associated with - including the AFL-CIO which the Times article says is well organized for this.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, meanwhile, has set up the Foundation for the Future, a tax-exempt “527” group with a $750,000 budget to help demographers, mapmakers and other experts aid Democrats. The organization grew out of meetings the union had with top advisers to Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, and others.
You can see the AFFR report,  and the AFFER report along with the others that were submitted on the Redistricting Board's website - right column, first page.  The AFFER report does not say who all was involved the way the AFFR report does.  I should do a post on who all has submitted reports.  It's covered - though scattered over the day's posts on March 31 when they all presented their plans at public testimony.

OK, Alaska, in 2021, let's make sure there's a redistricting contest online so everyone can get involved in the process.  If computer gamers played a hand in this, it would make this fun.  It can't be any more complicated that a lot of computer games people play.  Plus this hidden process would then be out in the open for everyone to see and they would better understand all the factors that need to be balanced and how seriously politics were drawing districts. 

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