Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Board Gets VRA Expert Report, Breaks into Work Groups

The Board convened, reported on what they heard from VRA expert Handley, then broke into two groups of Staff and members to work on the Hickel 01 plan and the old PAM-E plan which was found to be constitutional (by the board) but they didn't use it because it paired Senators Hoffman and Stevens and they speculated it would have trouble with the Department of Justice. The key points from Lisa Handley:
  • The Proclamation Plan is the new benchmark (The Proclamation Plan is the one they submitted but got turned down by the courts.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) measures retrogression from the last plan they approved.  Since the approved the Proclamation Plan (though the Alaska courts did not) it becomes the new benchmark plan.  So the number of effective native districts and the percentages of Native Voting Age Population (VAP) in that plan become the new norm, the new benchmark.  Though attorney White said he's still checking on this because the language includes "Last legal plan enforceable and in effect" and it's questionable if this plan was ever 'in effect' because the state courts rejected it.  No legal precedent for situation where state courts rejected a plan.  But Lisa Handley's interpretation is the most conservative interpretation.
  • If they use the PAM-E plan, the lowest Native VAP would have to be 38%, though it would be better to be higher.
  • If they DOJ had to choose between a plan with over all lower Native VAP's or higher Native VAP's but with a Native incumbent pairing, they would choose the latter. 
Then they broke up into two groups to work on the plans.

Here are my notes from the meeting.  CAUTION:  They are very rough notes, good for getting a sense of what happened, but not to be relied on. 

PHOTO NOTE:  Photos are from after the meeting when they were working on the plans.

Board Meeting 3/27/12  

10:02  Open
All there, Holm by phone.

McConnochie, Sandberg (GIS expert), Green

Torgerson: explaining what we are doing.  Eric Sandberg is back - GIS expert  - they will go to work session in two groups.  They will go ahead using the PAM-E plan as the base = put the Senator from Kodiak and Bethel together and Torgerson and ?? will work on Hickel 001 plan.

If ready, we’ll start adopting the new proclamation plan.  Otherwise push to tomorrow.  Exec. Session is listed in case we think we need one.  So far no need.
Approval of Agenda

Torgerson:  Letter from Handley.  Roll back everything a little bit.  Say this again because I’m building a record.  SC sent this back because we failed to follow the Hickel process, because we didn’t just focus on Constitution.  Last couple of days we engaged int hat process.  We adopted Hickel 01 plan and send the files to Dr. Handley, VRA expert, she worked late.  Her expertise is only whether we comply with VRA, not if comply with Constitution.  That is Board decision. 

Received this morning Dr. H’s report.  Handed out.

3 state house districts that meet requirements.
Interior Village - reconstructed HD 6 has NATIVE VAP of 33.3??%  this area needs at least a 50% VAP,   Other short district = Senate R  - Chain plus Kodiak.  her rec is 41.8%, we can come down lower because Chain is least polarized, but Hickel plan was 29.74% which is substantially below.  Conversation this morning, her lowest rec for R is 38%, so that’s our target.  She’d have to do an analysis, but she’d consider that probably ok.   ONe less effective House and Senate districts.  New BM plan is last one DOJ approved.  That’s our new benchmark.  Proclamation plan is now the Benchmark - the last plan DOJ reviewed and approved. 
So, our plan is retrogressive.  Because plans exist that are not retrogressive, it takes away the excuse that it can’t be done.  I believe it doesn’t not comply with Sec. V of the VRA and thus would not be approved.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: If we submit plan that doesn’t meet approval from DOJ?
OK< then back to us?
Torgerson: If you establish a bar at 46% and then come back with 42 you are below the bar.  But Handley said we can come up with lower.  We have a little more leeway.
Board Chair Torgerson and Member Brodie

lowering the #s - ability to elect or not - not any magic number.  Targets DOJ will rely on, but if lower, she’ll have to do new analysis to see if effective or not. 
Benchmark now is the Proclamation plan.  When I looked at that, looked at CFR on cases and asked her to check if that was the standard they use.  she did check, she was taking the most conservative approach.  Last legal plan enforceable and in effect - whether our is in effect.  There is not state plan that has been pre-cleared and State court that had problems under state law.  By doing the approach here, she’s taken most conservative approach.  If retrogressive after proclamation plan, it will surely be retrogressive on 2002 plan. 
Taylor Bickford:  She said if the 3rd Sen district was over 42% no further analysis would be necessary.  If in 38% range, she would have to do another analysis.
PeggyAnn McConnochie: The only way we got R up to where we did - trial court said it was not legal, if court said it was not legal and weren’t able to do that, is DOJ going to say that the plan, can she make an argument that the 38% would work,
Taylor Bickford: yes, it is riskier, but the argument can be made.  If plan at current range that pairs Hoffman and STevens, or plan that does not pair them, but is lower %, the DOJ would prefer the higher %.  The pairing alone wouldn’t hurt.  35% that doesn’t pair them and something like we have that does pair them.  DOJ would not except the lower %, the pairing itself wouldn’t be enough to kill it. 
Brodie working map on computer

Torgerson:  Jim’s Item 5.
White:  She’ll be available after 2pm our time to talk.
Torgerson:  I wanted her minimums, the rest if hypothetical.  We’ll work sessions.  Stay in this room.  Hooked up two projectors, we’ll work independently, but together.  Under open meetings act.  Open process as far as watching, but warn people not to engage the Board members.  Rather not lobby board members during the process.  We will take breaks, and you can talk them. 
Going off the record cause there is no way to have this on teleconference because two teams working.  We’ll come back around 1:30pm.  Or just work through rest of the afternoon and or evening.
Ask board members and staff, make findings as you go along.  If you bring forward a plan, that you have some sort of indication of why you did that process.  SC ruling, because it didn’t follow the process the court couldn’t demonstrate the Constitutional violations were necessary.  So you have to make that trail.  Also conforms to footnote 15 - that board make findings etc.  So that’s what we want to do to make a few notes.  A little more cumbersome than we did in the past. 

10:25  Take a 10:35 short recess and we’ll come back together.  Stand in recess.


  1. Lisa Handley is really stretching it if she calls the unconstitutional plan the benchmark.

    Clearly leaves room for an argument that a constitutional plan that is also approved should be the benchmark.

    The Redistricting Board is not yet representing any Alaskans fairly, let alone all Alaskans fairly.

  2. Anon, in the afternoon discussion with Handley by phone, it sounded like she was saying probably the previous plan (2000) should stand. They've been looking for precedents for the Alaska case where the state court rejected the plan that had been pre-cleared by DOJ. I have an audio (I hope) of her presentation to the board and I'll try to get that up later.


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