Saturday, June 29, 2013

Alaska Redistricting Board - What Happened Friday at Anchorage Public Hearing?

There's a 50 page analysis of what's happening with the Alaska Redistricting Board floating through my head.  Much too much for a post.  I'm hoping to find ways to reduce it to the most critical issues and explanation.  I'm thinking of a series of shortish posts, each covering a different point, though they all overlap to some extent.

Meanwhile here's my raw data from Friday's public hearings in Anchorage and two things that struck me Friday - the new emphasis on very low deviations and Randy Ruedrich's discussion of the source of AFFER's Anchorage map.   I'll talk about these at the end.

Other posts will look at what's not working right at the Board.

The Facts:

 Friday, June 21, 2013 at noon was the deadline the Board had set at their previous meeting for third parties to submit their redistricting plans.  It was also when the Board last met before the public hearings.  At that the Board meeting approved 11 plans:

  • Seven Board plans (Options A - G)
  • Three third party full statewide plans
    • AFFER (Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, essentially the Republicans) - presented by Randy Ruedrich, former Chair of the Republican Part of Alaska with a cameo role by Matsu mayor Larry DeVilbiss
    • Calista (Bethel area Native Corporation) - presented by Calista attorney Marcia Davis along with the contracted GIS person, Steve Colligan, (who also did the Republican maps), and political consultant, generally Democratic, Tom Begich
    • Gazewood and Weiner, representing the Riley plaintiffs (who successfully challenged the original plans in court) will be presented on Monday at the Fairbanks public hearing. 
  • One partial plan
    • Ketchikan's plan of Southeast that had Ketchikan in a district with the southern part of Prince of Wales Island

Thursday, June 27, 2013 the Board posted three more plans on their website
    • AFFER revised
    • Calista revised
    • Calista 2
[NOTE:  All the plans, plus additional ones mentioned below, as I write this, are available on the Board's website here.  You can get the maps, the GIS files, and the population data.] 

Friday, June 28, 2013 - When the Board opened the public testimony, it was announced that there were still more plans. 
    • Calista 3 (which I think they used in their presentation)
    • Matsu Plan 
    • South Lakes Community Council (Matsu) Plan
Each stack is a different plan
At the meeting there were piles of maps for each Plan - with Statewide maps and more
detailed maps of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Eagle River/Matsu, Kenai, Southeast, and Western Alaska.  Plus the deviation numbers for each plan. 
  • Public testimony - began with three presentations by third parties
    • AFFER - (Randy Ruedrich (former long time Republican Statewide chair) and David DeVilbiss (Mayor of Matsu)
    • Calista - (Marcia Davis, attorney for Calista Native Corporation, Steve Colligan, GIS expert, and musician, (mostly) Democratic political consultant, Tom Begich)
    • Ketchikan (I only caught "Dan," but the internet shows that Dan Bockhorst is the Ketchikan city manager, so that would be a good bet.)  They wanted the southern half of Prince of Wales Island.
  • I took notes on testimony by 27 people, not in this order (links go to posts that gives a little fuller account of their testimony.) Some might quibble whether my gist of each person should be considered under 'facts.'  Maybe not:
[I posted more detail of their testimony as it was happening on Friday, June 28, 2013.  You can click on the links at their names.  Most posts include several presenters.]

The Third-Party presentations explained how they went about making their maps, which criteria had higher priority, and explained where they had problems and had to make decisions - like having to break up Fairbanks borough because it had excess population, but not enough for a whole new district, and where they took the population from and why.

For now, I'll limit my comments to two things that caught my attention Friday:
  • Keeping Deviation Low
  • Ruedrich's Comment on The Source of the AFFER Anchorage Map

Keeping Deviation Low -  Deviation refers to each district's number of voters more or less than the ideal sized district of 17,755 (The 2000 Census reported Alaska state population divided by 40 districts.)   AFFER and Calista emphasized the low deviation their maps had - below 1.5%.  The basic idea is that if one district is much bigger than another, then the people in the big (by population) district have more people per representative than the people in the smaller district. Calista's deviations show their smallest district with -142 people and their largest with plus 168 - a difference of about 300 people from the biggest to the smallest.

But low is a relative term here.  In the previous round, the deviations for the state were much higher and the absolute maximum - only to be approached if there was no other way to meet the other criteria - was 10%.

I just got concerned here about the sudden sanctity of extremely low deviations.  This is good, but only if other issues are NOT being sacrificed.  Like keeping cities and boroughs intact.  Like not splitting neighborhoods like Fairview and Airport Heights.  I kept wondering what I wasn't being told about the other criteria as they kept emphasizing low deviations.

Again, the lower the better, all other things being equal.  But a statewide 5% deviation was well within the acceptable limits the first time around, and there's room for a little more deviation if needed to keep communities together in districts.

One reason that the plans can have such low deviations is that the planners are no longer worrying about pre-clearance from the US Department of Justice.  However, although Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which calls for pre-clearance for Alaska,  is still in tact, Section 4 of the Act has been invalidated by the US Supreme Court (in a 5-4 decision) because they didn't think the formula for determining which states should get pre-clearance was any good today.   This despite the fact that it was renewed in 2006 by 98-0 in the US Senate and 390 - 33 in the House. Until there are new criteria for Section 4, there won't be any states required to get pre-clearance.

However, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act still stands and still protects Alaska Natives from having their access to voting curtailed.  So, even though pre-clearance isn't required, the Board can be sued if there is retrogression that cannot be avoided because of loss of population or other such justifications.

That said, Calista is a Native Corporation and they say they consulted with other Native Corporations.  One would hope that means at least their maps will be consistent with the Voting Rights Act.  And their deviation is low too. 

The Source of the AFFER Anchorage Map - When Randy Ruedrich got to talking about Anchorage he said:  (from my rough notes)
Anchorage map product of mayor's office, Assembly work group, Clerk.
From Girdwood to north of Muldoon, no change. 
The point he was making was that they just took what Anchorage had made for themselves.  But I recall two years ago when it came out that the Anchorage map was one that AFFER gave to the mayor.  He approved it.  Debbie Ossiander, then the Assembly Chair, testified that the Assembly approved it.  But it turned out that other Assembly members had not seen the map, let alone approved it.    It's probably not a big deal, but to someone without the history, it would seem like the AFFER group had nothing to do with the Anchorage maps, they came from the Assembly and Mayor and Clerk.  But, the way I heard the story, AFFER gave Anchorage the map in the first place. 


  1. Thanks for keeping us better informed than the Board itself or our public officials or our news media.


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