Thursday, June 02, 2011

Taylor Bickford Explains His Eagle River Options

The Alaska Redistricting Board has approved, in concept, the Native Districts, Southeast, Fairbanks, Kenai, and Matsu.  Now it's time for Anchorage.  They set the border between Anchorage and Matsu at Peter's Creek.  But it turned out the numbers for Eagle River weren't quite right.  So board Executive Director worked on a map during the lunch break (as did board member Bob Brody).  Just before the meeting reconvened, he explained to me what he'd done.  Here's  some context before you listen to the video.  He's really explaining it pretty clearly, if you've been around the board meetings and you understand the special terms they're using.

Deviation:  The amount above or below the 'perfect' district size of 17,755.  This number comes from taking the new Alaska state population from the 2010 Census, and dividing it by 40 (the number of State House seats.)  Since each district has one representative, a district with, say 18,000 people has the same single representative as a district with, say 16,000.  This would violate the Constitution's one man, one vote rule.  So the maximum deviation between the highest and lowest districts has been set at 10%, but that is only if there are special circumstances that make it difficult to be lower.  Some rural areas have a very low population density so keeping the compact and equal size is hard.  For urban areas like Anchorage where the population is pretty dense, it's much easier to have compact districts that are equal size. The goal for urban areas is districts with less than 1% deviation (either above or below 17,755.)

Negative Deviation:  In the video Bickford says that Matsu and Valdez have a 'negative deviation' of about 400-500 people.  That means that Matsu, as a whole, with five districts, is about 400-500 people below where they should be for all the districts to have 17,755 each.  The 'Valdez' district (just one) is by itself that far down.  So they want to take about 1000 people from Anchorage - near the Peters Creek border with Matsu - and give them to Matsu and Valdez to get them closer to 'zero deviation.'

Overpopulated:  He says District 19 is overpopulated.  Yes, you've got it right if you're thinking they have more than 17,755 people. 

He's come up with two option:
1.  Keeps all of Eagle River in two districts.  This is what Eagle River residents asked for at public testimony.  It's what Muldoon residents (some of whom are currently in a district with Eagle River) said they wanted.  BUT, their deviation is closer to 1.8% this way.  Well within range in general, but high for an urban area.  But as he points out, this area is trapped between the military bases and the mountains.  There's little wiggle room.  (The Lt. Governor sent a letter to the board asking the bases be as separate from civilian districts as possible because civilians can't go on base to vote for security reasons, so this forces military to go off base to vote.  To me that sounds like something to try to do, but not something that should cause other severe problems.  Besides, not all military bases have 17,755 people.  So they'd have to be in a district with civilians.)
2.  Make the Eagle River districts closer to zero deviation, but then you'd have extra people who would have to be joined with another district.  Bickford's option is a little bit of Muldoon and Stuckagain Heights.  Less deviation, but taking an option both Eagle River and Muldoon residents told them not to do.

Note:  The map he's pointing to is of Anchorage/Eagle River, but it doesn't have any of the proposed boundaries on it.  Those are census districts (I think that's what he said.  They're a step up from the lowest census blocs.

The afternoon session got a bit testy and I'll try to outline the issues (the ones here are part of them) in the next post. 

Eagle River and Muldoon folks, this is the time to let them know what you think about having wholly Eagle River districts with a 1.8% deviation or if it's better to get the deviation closer to zero and not have any of Eagle River mixed with Muldoon.

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