Friday, March 30, 2012

Redistricting Board Looks at Bethel-Anchorage Senate Pairing But Seems Headed For Another Plan

I got to the meeting about ten minutes late - there was another story in front of City Hall as I was walking over that I'll get up as soon as I can.  When I got in they were talking about issues raised by pairing Senator Hoffman with another incumbent.  Actually, any Native Senator with any other incumbent.  Board member Green said she'd just gotten an email from the Alaska Village Council Presidents protesting such pairings.  So the Board was trying to find other ways to get both constitutional and in compliance with the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

Board Executive Director Taylor Bickford had already been working on alterantives.  They thought the Bethel - Matsu pairing would solve the problem, but that would have paired Bethel (and Hoffman) with a sitting Matsu Senator.  (Leonard Lawson, who drew the Rights Coalition map with a Bethel and Matsu senate district, leaned over and said theirs paired Bethel with an open senate seat district.)

In any case, Bickford was not looking back at pairing Bethel and Anchorage in a Senate seat and he found a House district in an open Senate seat.  When I say to board members of staff how ridiculous it seems to me to be pairing a midtown Anchorage house with a Bethel house district, they say, "That's how Fairbanks feels."  But they now have urban City of Fairbanks in one Senate seat and such an urban area of Anchorage paired with a district that's completely off the road system seems absurd.  And I think the Board knows that, but are doing it to show they tried to take population from Anchorage.  Here are the maps.
Top: Whole Bethel-Anc map; Middle: HD 36 paired with Bottom: HD 35 Midtown Anchorage
The pinkish semi-circle in the middle image above is the link from HD 36 over Cook Inlet into Anchorage.  Bickford said he wanted to pair it with 19, but it has an incumbent Senator.  HD 35 the circled orange district is the one that would be part of a senate seat with Bethel.  Actually it's a whole swath of Alaska from across the inlet to the Bering Sea.

Then the moved on to a more likely map, but one that still looks pretty amazing.  This one goes back to the original Proclamation Plan rural districts, but rejoins the Aleutians, and then has to make a whole series of adjustments to other rural districts to get the deviations (in population from district to district) under 10% statewide.  To do this they also had to make what Bickford said were minor changes to the Fairbanks districts they presented yesterday.  But look at the yellow District 39 that goes from Gamble and Savoonga in the West across Alaska to the Canadian border and then down to McCarthy and the Copper River area.  I know the old HD 6 was nearly as big.

Map 3/30 -1  - After tweaking they'll send this one to check about VRA compliance

The Board broke around noon and will reconvene at 2pm.  Bickford and GIS guy Eric Sanford will work on getting the deviations down and getting a map that is good enough to send to Lisa Handley, the VRA expert, to see if she can endorse this as in compliance with the VRA.    I know this maps looks similar to the Bethel-Anchorage, but it doesn't go into Anchorage and it's labeled 3/30 - 1. 

It seems to me that the Board has spent so much time focused on having their baseline Hickel Process constitutional map as a starter, they have forgotten that the changes have to be the minimal changes (from the constitutional requirements) possible to get VRA compliance.  But I'm wondering about the PAM-E plan that the courts used last time as an example of a plan that was both constitutional and VRA compliant.  Won't they again point to it and say it meets both sets of requirements while the new map the Board is working up  has to violate the constitution - not to meet VRA requirements - but to avoid pairing a Native incumbent with another incumbent.  And I'm thinking of Lisa Handley's testimony the other day [sorry, I have a lot of it on audio and I'm trying to get it up soon] where she said that pairing a Native incumbent wouldn't prevent Department of Justice approval (that it complies with VRA.)  Maybe I misunderstood something, but I thought they had to have the least possible variance from the constitutional requirements as possible.  I'll see if I can ask someone.  Or maybe HD 39's lack of compactness and lack of socio-economic integration will be seen as minimal and the other districts are ok.  Certainly, as Bickford said today, rural Alaska isn't easy to make small districts with. 

It's almost 2 so I need to get back.  Don't have time to do anything with my notes except spell check.  SO BEWARE - these are rough and approximate. 


10:09 I arrived late
Alaska Village Council Presidents - email opposing rural Senator pairings. 

Taylor Bickford:  the other day saw Bethel-Matsu pairing and were excited with that possibility.  But it contains an incumbent Senator.  Our goal has been not to pair the Bethel Senator with another Senator.  But checked numbers, and couldn’t get the Senate to more than 42%, but with the outgrowth of rural areas and growth of Matsu, it would lead to future problems of [Native effectiveness].  Tried to remove the Senator, reached a low point, would have totally changed the nature of Matsu.

Started looking at another option - focused on Bethel - Anchorage.  Letting you know what I worked on and why I’m not showing a Bethel-Matsu option. 

Bethel-Anchorage - started with Hickel plan - had Native horseshoe which Lisa said was too low VAP.  Had to take that district as drawn and figure out how to unpack the other districts to raise the VAP. 
Step 1.  39 is necessary to unpack the interior district.
Step 2.  run it into Nome to unpack the Native
3.  Have to get urban population.  38 has to do this.  39 and 38 are unavoidable result of getting a fifth Native district.
The need to build two more house districts that can be paired for VRA and avoid pairing the sitting Senator Hoffman.  And get 3rd effective Senate district.

I built Bethel and Aleutian districts so Aleutians back together.  Similar to ours and similar to some of third parties.  Can’t combine Kodiak and Aleutians.  If pair Bethel and Kodiak, back to incumbent pairing.  So, where do you take the Bethel House District?  And so here’s what we have, connecting Bethel with an Anchorage district.  Found the closest district - 19.  But that has a sitting Senator. 
then 16, sort of a midtown, west district, touches water, has Native percentage similar to Kodiak, 18%. 
White:  Midtown?  That’s where I live.
Taylor Bickford:  Yes we targeted Michael White.  We’re jumping the water to go into Anchorage.  If you were to do that, the Senate district VAP would be 42%.  Unlike Matsu didn’t have to carve out incumbents and shifting the rest of the map 
Three effective Senate districts at

This plan accomplishes our goals of figuring out what to do with Bethel and Aleutian region. 
Other problems?  Pretty big jump to Anchorage.  If I’m looking for an issue, that’s it.  Didn’t have to do anything with 36 or 37.  Real issue is the jump to Anchorage. 

Torgerson:  Does Fire Island in the district make it look a little better? 

White:  Would have to reconfigure Anchorage Senate Seats. 
Torgerson:  Mike, is that going to raise problems.
White:  Some water jump allowed.  House districts Contiguous, compact, SE I.  Senate seats only Contiguous.  Across the water isn’t that far.  Not like 1000 miles or 100 miles. 

Torgerson:  Could be an issue?
White:  Going across Cook Inlet, not like going across seas???
Torgerson:  Compactness issue?
White:  Done for population reasons?  Relative compactness.  Coming down like that, a little concern. 
Taylor Bickford:  I can say from practical, not legal, perspective, when you get to rural Alaska you have to throw compactness out the window.  Not realistic to expect perfect compactness. hd 6 in Benchmark certainly not compact.  Given what we have in front of us to avoid an incumbent pairing, we have Bethel and Matsu. . .
One district goes under -5%   - 9.1% variation.

Torgerson:  Other questions?  Let’s look at other ones you worked on.  We can hop back and forth. 

Taylor Bickford:  This plan - 3/30-1 
People can’t find maps,  Recess 5 minutes (10:33)

Taylor Bickford:  Talking a lot about incumbent pairings.  Only talking about this as a Voting Rights Act issue.  You know about briefs from Native organizations, and Marie’s email, and the effort is to not have a native incumbent pairing if possible.

Drawing of 39 and 38 is result of Lisa saying Hickel plan saying these not effective house district (6) and so that’s what we are doing.  That leaves you with everything underneath. 

Start with pan similar to Proclamation plan, and not have a Native incumbent paired. 
Bethel is, starts with Bethel and works its way down.  The other day all frustrated and thinking no way to work it out.  I think we can.

Started by reuniting the chain.  We considered Aleutians east and west.  Originally cut off and paired with Bethel over span of water.  Reunited Chain and ran them as far up the Peninsula as far as I could.  This goes from Bethel into unified Chain.  Contiguity similar to what proposed by 3rd party groups.  I don’t see this as a stretch Lincoln-Penn to Dillingham.
Torgerson:  It doesn’t really go to Dillingham.
Taylor Bickford:  Into Dillingham census area but not into city of Dillingham.  D is actually located here in HD 36.  Native preferred incumbent in Dillingham and one in Bethel, so we want to not pair them. 
Torgerson:  Most of the connection is uninhabited.
Taylor Bickford:  Major change.  36 absorbed ??? had to pick up a couple of villages from 38 to 36 (Holy Cross ……)  Similar to Proclamation.  Corrected Chain splitting.  Unpacking the old 6 district.
Senate pairings.  40 and 39 = 65%
37-38  43.9%
Kodiak and Bethel Region without Bethel 47.6%
House - 5 effective.  Only one slightly below 46.2% but a lot of benchmark 37 so ok.
Problem in last plan from Tyonek into Anchorage.
Here, picks up Nunivak Island, goes across the water.
Lake and Penn B is divided. 
White:  Not enough population to support a district.  >50%.  Borough has less than 2000. 
Torgerson:  Majority live in Chignik.
Sandberg:  Most in Iliamna area. 
White:  This plan does not incorporate the Fairbanks ???.  For deviations.  Tweaking.  Bethel Anchorage does include Fairbanks. 
Need some clean up.
Taylor Bickford:  If the board were to ask us to look more, could take Rural Districts out and put them into the Hickel plan.  Could take them out of Proclamation and put them into Hickel plan.  ?????
Torgerson:  What are you referring to Fairbanks?
White:  The map you did yesterday.
Torgerson:  OK.
Taylor Bickford:  I would have taken Rural districts and put them in Hickel Template with Fairbanks, but didn’t have enough time to do that. 
Torgerson:  My sense to send these to Lisa to let her look at them at break.  Hickel Plan, most constitutional plan ever made…..???
Torgerson:  How long would it take to do that?  More concerned if not going to change much, get her ok on the concept.
Taylor Bickford:  If we recessed to 11:30, I could come back with the Fairbanks fix.  Lisa won’t be back to her desk til 12:30 our time.
Torgerson:  You have a lock on your door?  You can get it done in half an hour.
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  I’d like to thank you Taylor for coming up with something we hadn’t thought of. 
10:56  Torgerson:  Let’s recess.  Try to get our deviations down.  Stand in Recess until 11:30. 

11:32 - Reconvened
Torgerson:  We took a break for Taylor to incorporate the Proc Plan started plan into Hickel Template.
Taylor Bickford:  To clarify, I did start with rural from Proclamation, but did start with Hickel.  Because the Fairbanks deviations were a little higher, we had to do a little adjusting to get the whole thing under 10%. 
Torgerson:  Can we identify your changes by map.  3/30 - 1 so we’re clear? 
Taylor Bickford;  Went into Fairbanks and made minor tweaks, didn’t affect anything we talked about yesterday.  Tweaked the ?? district, got the overall deviation down.  Had to bring our highest district down to be under 10%. 
Torgerson:  Can we back up.  I’m sure Jim in Fairbanks would like to know.
Taylor Bickford:  Shifted pop from 2 into 3 and a little from 3 into 1.  Just, cant tell yo exact blocks, switch of less than 100 people.  This block is enormous - 242 people, just the nature of the shape of the blocks.  Asked Eric to see if he could bring - neg 5.99 in district 36 - could he get that lower.  Started with Anvik and Grayling.  Added them both and that brought 36 under 5%, but a tenuous connection between 38 and Wade-Hampton.  Said add Grayling back and kept Anvik, deviation down to 5.51.  We’ll clean the zero blocks to make it cleaner - no population.  Reducing most overpopulated district and underpopulated district brought over all to 9.1%.
Torgerson:  Remind me?
Taylor Bickford:  I think about 8.7 for Senate and 8.? for House.
Torgerson:  Concerned about Grayling connection? 
Taylor Bickford:  No not now.
Torgerson:  You could make the corridor look better because this area is empty. 
Sandberg:  Anvik would have been an island. 
Taylor Bickford:  We’ll clean it up.  Same as we’ve been discussing, got Statewide deviation better by slight fixes in Fairbanks.
Torgerson:  Dividing Kenai twice now?
Taylor Bickford:  .3 excess - Kodiak takes part and remember two villages in 36 and that was in proclamation plan and that was never an issue - Nanwalek and Port Graham.
Nothing can be taken out of 37.  Existed in Proc plan.  Population deviation…
Torgerson:  As goal for analayis from Dr. Handley, enough for her to review?
Taylor Bickford:  Eric and I can get this together.  She won’t be back until 12:30 and we can get it done by then. 
Sandberg:  She needs the recompiled election results for these districts. 
Taylor Bickford:  We may find small technical details, but for her analysis this is all she needs.
Torgerson:  How will we handle her report.
Taylor Bickford:  Mike’s the one who has been communicating with her.  I assume she can.  Asking to check this plan, Anchorage-Bethel plan?????
Brodie:  Her computer spits it out, we’ll ask for that verbally with follow up in writing?
Torgerson:  I agree, curious if they had already asked her about that.  In my opinion, just want a yes-no, on the right path or totally off.  I’m very comfortable with a verbal and something in writing tomorrow.  She doesn’t do finals til we adopt it,  Then we get the final-final.  Any other questions or discussion?  She said two hours, that’d be 3:30.  I’m thinking about recess til 1:30.  I know we won’t have Lisa’s, but we have other work.
Taylor Bickford:  2 o’clock would be better. 


  1. Why put forward a legal plan when the fallback is the Proclamation (your own illegal) plan?

    Is the Supreme Court really going to allow that?

  2. Thanks for shining some daylight on the Redistricting Board's, umm, process? er shenanigans? attempts to grasp at straws? focusing on imcumbants rather than constituents?

    It's really not that hard if one starts with basic law, the principles of fair representation for Alaskans, based on State Law and then deviates only as necessary to comply with Voting Rights Act.

    See the RIGHTS Coalition plan (Plan W).


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