Friday, September 13, 2013

Comparing Truncation in 2001 and 2011/13 - Alaska Redistricting Board

 "The data does not indicate whether that seat was a mid-term truncation or not."

So wrote Michael White in a memo to the Alaska Redistricting Board.  Truncations (see explanation of truncation at the bottom of the page) happens at the very end of the process of redistricting.  The house seats have been created and then the Board has to pair the house seats into senate seats.  The house seats are numbered and the senate seats are lettered. 

This post was going to finish my truncation posts,
but it's turning out to be more complicated.  So this
one basically compares the 2001 Board's approach
to truncation to the 2011 Board's approach.

Two years ago, in a post on truncation, I quoted a memo from Board attorney Michael White:
"Where there is substantial change to the population of a district, and the previous district is mid-term in 2012, Egan appears to require the incumbent's term be truncated and that an election be held.  What constitutes a substantial change is not defined by law or court decision.  In 2000, the three districts the board found substantially similar, all had less than 10% change in population between the previous plan and the new plan. The next highest percentage of maintained population was 66.2%.  The data does not indicate whether that seat was a mid-term truncation or not. " [See the 2000 Proclamation of redistricting here.]
The 2001 Board's Truncation Process

Actually the data do tell us.  I looked at the 2001 Board's Proclamation Plan. (It's a little complicated because they too had two different plans.  This is from the first one, but for truncation and assigning two and four year terms it appears they did them the same way both times.) It says:
"Second, that the terms of the incumbents of seven senate districts—C, E, G, I, M, O, and Q under the old identification system--be truncated because their districts have been substantially changed by this redistricting plan, and that the terms of the incumbents of three senate districts--A, K, and S under the old identification system--not be truncated because their districts are substantially unchanged, and

Third, that the 17 senate seats for which there will be elections in 2002 be assigned 2-year and 4-year terms according to the following schedule, which uses the new system of identification:
2-year 4-year
A (no election) B
K (no election) L
T (no election) S
From the record, you can extract the process the 2001 Board used for truncation.

Step 1:  (I began the quote above with step 2.) They identified the seats that might need truncation - all the mid-term seats. (The 2- year column above.)  That is the seats that had run in the most recent election (2000) and whose terms were not up until 2004.  Since the senate seats are staggered - ten run in one election and the other ten run in the next - ten would have two more years to serve and sit out the next election (2002) and ten would, in the normal cycle, be up for election in 2002.  So they just looked at the ten seats that had two more years.

Step 2:  They determined which of those ten districts had substantially changed.  They found that three seats were substantially the same:  District A had 95.9% of its population the same.  K had 87.6% the same, and T had 98.2% the same.   (Since K was 87.6% it really was a bit lower than the 10% or less that White wrote in his memo.)  These three were NOT truncated and so are marked "(no election)" because the incumbents will finish the remaining two years in their terms and next stand for election in 2004. 

Step 3:  The other seven districts with two more years to serve were found to be substantially changed and so they were truncated.  Whoever was serving in those districts would have to run again in 2002, just two years after they were elected to a four year term.

Step 4:  They decided that the seven truncated districts would run for two year terms that would end in 2004 - when their terms would have ended if they hadn't been truncated.   In effect these districts got a double hit - they were truncated and then they would only be elected for two years.  But this would keep them in their regular staggered cycle.  

The other ten districts (old letters B, D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, S) whose seats were up in 2002 anyway and would have run for seats good until 2006, would all have four year terms ending in 2006.    

So, in effect, the only seats with four year terms, that would have been up for reelection in 2004, would still be up for election in 2004 because the seven that were truncated got two year terms until 2004, and the three that weren't truncated wouldn't have to run again until 2004.  At that point they would all run next in 2008.

2001 Board Had Elegant Solution

As I see this now, the 2001 Board found an elegant way to make this work.  Only seven districts were actually affected by having their term length altered by the Board, yet the Board still took care of all those districts that needed to be truncated AND they kept the Senate staggered as constitutionally required with minimal disruption.  Just seven seats were affected.  The terms of the other 13 were left completely alone and served out the terms they were elected to and stayed in the same staggered rotation.  

I would note that based on these documents, Mr. White's advice to the Board that "In 2000, the three districts the board found substantially similar, all had less than 10% change in population between the previous plan and the new plan" appears to be wrong.  
  1. Of the three midterm seats not truncated, seat K (87.7% the same) had  more than 10% change.  
  2. There were other districts that had less than ten percent change.  B was 100% the same and S was 91.6% the same.  It's clear also that the other ten districts (including B and S) weren't considered for truncation because their terms were up in 2002 anyway. 
  3. If you click here, you'll get to the 2001 Board's truncation plan and you'll also see that Mr. White appears to be wrong about the next highest percentage.  It wasn't 66.2%.  In fact none is listed at 66.2%.   If we don't count the other two districts over 90%, B and S (B kept the same letter, S was T),  the next highest percentage is E (previous P) at 68.8% and then G (previous N) at 67.7% and  H (also previous N) at 66.9%.  The next one is  N (previous F) at 66.6%.  Of those four, the one with the highest percentage, E (68.8%), was truncated.  The other three were not because their terms were up in 2002 anyway.
  4. White appears to be wrong about the fact that the report doesn't indicate if the next highest percentage was a two or four year seat.  As I said in 3), E (68.8%) was a seat not due to expire until 2004 and it was truncated to 2002. 
The 2011 Board's Truncation Process

As I mentioned, truncation is one of the last things the Board has to do.  The hard part of creating the house district lines is done and they just have to pair the completed house seats.  In addition to the Alaska constitutional standards of compactness, contiguity, and socio-economic integration, they also are supposed to consider 'proportionality.'  I don't completely get this term (as they used it) but basically they said that if a borough had enough population for four house and two senate seats, then all those seats should be in the borough and not split with other boroughs.  The idea is that their size in population should be reflected with a proportional number of representatives.  (Like the other standards, it might have to be given some slack because it competes with other standards.  In this case, Fairbanks had enough population for 5.5 seats.  The .5 remainder had to be paired with someone outside the borough. 

I intended to explain the process this 2011 Board used.

But, in hindsight, they really hadn't thought out the process too clearly.  White's memo, if anyone remembered it by the time they got there, did not seem to reflect a careful review of the 2001 process as the errors of fact indicate.  Also, the Board did this twice - in 2011 and then when that plan was tossed, again in 2013.  Both times what you saw at the meeting was kind of confused.  I was going to offer the steps the Board used, but I think now it makes more sense to talk first about the standards they had.

Standard 1:  The senate seat letters had to follow in order the numbers of the house seats.  So A had to pair house seats 1 and 2.  B had to pair house seats 3 and 4, etc. (This is not unreasonable.  It's how it was done before.  But I don't remember hearing anything that said it had to be that way.

Standard 2:  Seats that had substantially changed, would be up for election at the next election (2012 the first time and 2014 this time around.)  My point here is that they really didn't pay that much attention to which seats were mid-term and which were up in the next election.  Their focus seemed to be on districts that had changed a lot.   I think Michael White (the Board's attorney) might have mentioned 'mid-term' now and then, but it wasn't as though anyone was listening.  They clearly did not divide all the seats into two groups of ten - the mid-term seats and those due to run again in the next election anyway.

Standard 3:  Determining which seats would be two year and which would be four year was divorced from what a seat's normal cycle was.  Their principle here was basically procedural, not substantive.  They wanted the two and four year terms to alternate alphabetically.  It did not (at least publicly) take into consideration what the original seat's normal election would have been, the way the 2001 Board did.  They didn't distinguish between seats that had been truncated and those that would have run in the next election anyway.  A was to be four year, B two year, C four year, etc.  This was particularly confused this second time around because the seats for the 2012 election had been equally arbitrarily chosen.   No one mentioned whether some districts had been truncated twice plus given a two year both times or not.

Their argument at the time (2011) was this would make it random and would keep them from biasing the decisions.  If I recall right, in 2011, they brought the list of lettered senate seats into the meeting, so that wouldn't have prevented them from massaging the list before hand.  I'm not saying they did, but it wasn't a transparent process.  For instance, no one ever explained why the counting of house seats started in Fairbanks instead of Southeast Alaska as it previously had.

Standard 4:  This one was voiced by Board member Peggyann McConnochie. She declared that the seats within a city or borough had to be staggered too.  At one point she said that contiguous seats should be staggered.  Given that districts often are contiguous to more than one other district, this would be impossible.  McConnochie never said where this city and borough staggering standard came from.  It makes a certain amount of sense, but it's clearly not in the Alaska constitution and attorney White had said there were no guidelines for how to do this part of the job.

Step 1:  If there was a step one, it was a fairly chaotic process where they tried to fit the senate letters to the house numbers and debated back and forth.  At the time I wrote that it sounded like they were exhausted from the setting up of the house districts and that they really hadn't thought this next step out.  The transcript reflects this.

Step 2:  A member of the audience says something about the need to change some of the house district numbers so the senate seats letters will fall right.  I'd note, as I did at the time, that having an audience member speak to the board was pretty extraordinary.  Audience members can talk to board members during breaks and before and after meetings, but when the Board is in session, only Board members, their staff, and invited guests (pretty rare - like the Voting Rights Expert they hired) can speak.  Everyone else must listen only.  The exception is when they had public testimony and people were given a set amount of time to address the Board.  At Board meetings others didn't address the Board.

But this time, an audience member spoke up and suggested a way out of the knot they were tying themselves up in.  Also, of note, is that the audience member they allowed to address them was Randy Ruedrich, former chair of the Alaska Republican Party.

Step 3:  Adjourn for about half an hour.

Step 4:  Come back with a new list and then alphabetically divide them into two year and four year seats.

There's another decision of importance here too.  Somewhere in all this, before the break, the Board determined that their previous standard of 10% of less change in a district's population would be lowered to 75%.  (Actually, in the end, I seem to have missed where it happened, the standard was lowered to 70%.  In 2001 a district that was 68.8% changed was truncated.    The current Board did this explicitly because John Coghill's seat was 77%.  And White had told the Board (incorrectly as I pointed out above) that all the 2001 districts that were not truncated had less than 10% change.

The Consequences

I'm going to save most of this for a later post.  Going through the truncation list and the new terms assigned to each district is tricky.  Their lists have seat letters only - no incumbent names.  And this time, since they made two different plans, it has added complications.  And this post is already very detailed.  So I'll get some charts ready that I think will make it easier to see the changes in districts from the 2010 election to the 2012 election and what is planned for 2014 and beyond.  In brief, though, for now:

The 2001 board had fairly simple and elegant plan.  Split the seats into those that had to run in the next election and those who had two more years to go.  Only the second group was considered for truncation.  Of the ten, seven had to be truncated.  When it came to two and four year terms, they kept all the districts in their original rotation.  Only seven seats were affected.

The 2011 board didn't seem to take the regular staggered rotation into consideration and put every seat up for a lottery for two or four year terms.  Trying to figure out the consequences is pretty difficult because of the changes in the district letters and because they did this twice. I'm still working on these. 

[Whoops, I accidentally posted this.  I'm going to leave it up, but reserve the right to fix any typos I missed in the morning.]

Truncation:   Senate terms are for four years, while house terms are for only two.  Senate seats are also staggered.  Half (10) are voted on in one election and the other half (10) in the next election two years later.  If redistricting significantly changes the constituency of a senate seat, then a large number of the voters of the new district are represented by someone they didn't vote for.  Thus, senate seats with significant changes are subject to truncation.  This means that regardless of when the term is up for the sitting senator, the population should be able to participate in choosing their senator in the next election.

So, all the new districts whose terms expire in 2016 that have a significant change will be up for election in the next election (2014).  Those up for election in 2014 will be up again anyway so they don't need to be truncated.  But this messes up the staggered terms, so some have to be designated as two year terms and others as four year terms to get ten up for election one year and the other ten the next election. The 2012 election used a new redistricting plan in which all but one of the seats were truncated and then the Board assigned two or four year terms to them. And now they have to do that again. 

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