Saturday, September 21, 2013

Redistricting Board Challengers Claim Political Gerrymandering In Court Filing

[Saturday 9/21/13:  I thought this got posted the other day, but apparently not.  I've taken advantage of the delay to clean it up a bit.]

I posted the September 13, 2013 Riley court filings without really having time to read them, but while J drove I finished them.  These new filings add details to the original filing that challenged the latest Redistricting Proclamation Plan. 

I’m typing in the passenger seat as we drive through spectacular fall colors near Whitehorse,  so this won’t go into too much depth, you can see the whole complaint on my earlier post and find the sections you want to read further.  I’ll put up several posts, I hope, when we get to Whitehorse.

Here’s an outline of the filing with some comments. 

I.  Summary Judgment Standard

II.  Compactness Claims
House districts 3, 5 - Fairbanks; 9, 12 - Matsu; and 32 Kenai.)  By breaking the Borough boundaries, they argue they also make the districts less  compact.  As proof they offer options submitted by other private parties.  

III.  Unnecessary splitting in the Matsu and Kenai Districts
There are challenges to some Fairbanks and Matsu and Kenai house districts because they are unnecessarily joined with populations outside of the boroughs they’re in.  These splits, besides violating the standard to keep political boundaries as intact as possible, also, they argue, results in the compactness problems they first mentioned.

They also get into discussion of deviation inconsistencies.  They offer options that were before the Board, even adopted as draft options by the Board, that they claim take care of these issues in a way that meets the Alaska constitutional standards better.  And they find fault with the Board’s articulated reasons for what they did as either inconsistent or non-existent. (I’m simplifying this so I can get it done by the time we get to Whitehorse.  [UPDATE 9/21/13:  I thought I'd posted this from Whitehorse, but didn't so I'm cleaning up and adding.  Probably a good thing it didn't go up before.]

You can read the original document HERE.

The Gerrymandering Claims

But when you read further down, there is a quote from Board member Bob Brodie talking to the Riley attorney, Michael Walleri.

III. [This is III in the original but should be IV] Avoidable Deviation Variance in SD 5 and 6

 I posted a detailed explanation of the deviation issues in an earlier post.  The numbers aren’t all that significant by themselves, but when you combine them with the compactness issues of the house districts involved - and for me the contiguity issue for HD 5 - and the splitting of UAF campus, they all seem to point toward something fishy. 

They argue here also argue that the Board really didn’t consider deviation among Senate Districts at all.  This is the first time they quote Board member Brodie. 
“Mr. Brodie admitted that the Board never considered or otherwise attempted to reduce deviations between Senate Districts.”
A little later they write:
“More interestingly, Mr. Brodie urged his fellow board members to deny the lower deviation configuration [switching housed districts in senate districts A and B] on political grounds:  i.e. to deny the Riley plaintiffs a perceived political advantage.” (p. 36)
This leads to footnote 94:
“94.  Boardmember Bob Brodie indicated that “he (referencing the undersigned [Riley plaintiffs’ attorney Walleri]) just looked at the political makeup of the senate districts where his clients live and now he wants to change it to give them (Mr. Riley and Mr. Dearborn) the biggest advantage they possibly can without any altruistic feelings of the state redistricting process.  . . Of course, Dr. Handley [the voting rights consultant] identified the residents of Ester/Goldstream as Democratic leaning voters, and Board counsel has often stated that the Riley Plaintiffs were stalking horses for the Democratic party.  Of course, the Board denies any motivation to benefit the Republican party with the resulting district configuration, however, the statements by Mr. Brodie indicate that he believed that the senate pairing benefited the political interests of the political party that the Board associated with the Riley Plaintiffs, and an intention to ignore deviation considerations in furtherance of an intention to deny any such advantage to the Riley Plaintiffs and their Democratic associates.  The motivations present factual issues in dispute that will require trial.” (p. 36)

We’re getting close to Whitehorse, so let me cut to the chase.

I’ve heard on various occasions that gerrymandering is illegal, but no one has every won a case against a redistricting board based on gerrymandering.  It’s too hard to prove the intentions of the Board members.  So, the proxy for this is whether they stick to the procedural rules while doing their work and whether they balance the different standards - compactness, one-person-one vote, contiguity, socio-economic integration, etc. - better than any alternative plans others offered.

The Riley Plaintiffs are arguing that they didn’t.  Here they don’t ask the Court to find gerrymandering - though they point it out - but rather find that districts are not as compact and deviations aren’t as low as they could have been.  That’s all I can do at this point. 

This part begins around page 35 of the document.

[Saturday update:  I'm adding on here since this didn't get posted earlier.]

Rejected Settlement Offer

In this section on  "Avoidable Deviation Variance in SD 5 and 6" the filing also reveals that the plaintiffs
"made an offer to settle the present litigation if the Board would swap the Dist. 4-B to 4-C, and to change Dist. 6-C to Dis. 6-B in the proposed "Concept Plan" under consideration by the Board."
This would swap two house seats and rearrange Senate Districts B and C to a configuration that, in my mind, makes much more sense.  The new districts would have much more contiguous house districts and the University of Alaska Fairbanks wouldn't be split and the deviations would be lower.

The Plaintiffs' complaint is not so much that the offer was rejected, but how it was rejected.  It was originally rejected without being mentioned in public meetings .  They also claim that the Board's attorney said that he had conveyed the message to the Chair who had discussed the issue one-on-one with each Board member and they had decided to reject it.

Three or more Board members are not allowed, by law, to discuss Board issues except in public meetings.  The plaintiffs argue that
"such a procedure --- often called daisy-chain communication - - - violated the state Open Meeting Act, and that the Board should cure the violation by meeting and placing the matter on the record.  Board counsel requested that the offer be made in writing, and on July 17, 2013, the undersigned [plaintiffs attorney Michael Walleri] provided the offer in writing which was included in the Board record."
It subsequently did go on the record on July 18.  So, presumably, the Board cured the violation, but the plaintiffs write
"In rejecting the offer, Mr. Brodie admitted that the Board never considered the deviations between Senate districts as a relevant factor."

 IV.  [Again, this should be V]  TRUNCATION

I've already done a long post about truncation related to this 2013 "Final" Proclamation Plan

The filing looks at the prior case law on truncation and then what's happened with truncation with this current Board's several Proclamation Plans.  And finally in this cycle.

The focus here is the change from the very high level of same constituency (I had put it at 10%, but the filing says 13%) in the previous round to 25% this last round which allowed Sen. Coghill to escape truncation.

The Riley filing goes on to point out that while SD P [Democratic Sen. Egan in Juneau] with an 86.7% same constituency was not truncated,
"Oddly, the Board truncated SD B (City of Fairbanks) [which had been held by Democratic Sen. Paskvan] despite the fact that SD B had changed less than SD P"
They also point out that in 2012
"As a result [of using 13% as the truncation cutoff] all seats with less than 85% of the population of the former district were truncated, including two (2) seats over 75%:  i.e. SD L (77.7%) SD T (78.1%)."
 As I understand the term truncation, it means cutting short those seats that still would have two more years to serve in the next election.  This allows the electorate a say on who represents them.  After the board truncates seats with substantially new constituents, it has to re-stagger the seats so that only ten seats come up for election each election. 

Under that definition, the three seats the Riley document claims were truncated (SD B, SD L, and SD T) were NOT really truncated because their terms were up in 2012 anyway (as I read the admittedly confusing charts that assign two and four year terms.  I say confusing because tracking the changing seat numbers and incumbents over the various changes takes some effort.) 

However, the fact that all three had their next terms limited to two years probably is of relevance.  But then the whole way this Board did the truncation and assignment of two and four year terms was significantly less straightforward and rational than the previous Board as I demonstrated in this previous post comparing how the 2000 Board and the 2011 Board went about truncating districts.

I do think it is significant that in the previous round, the Board made the cutoff for truncation about 87% and shortened the next terms of three Democratic Senators to two years, even though their districts were over 75% the same, while this time making 75% the cutoff point for truncation allowing a Republican senator to escape truncation.  It is also significant that this is the very district in which the plaintiffs in this case reside. 


Here, the Riley Plaintiff filing challenges the compactness of Senate District B  (the two house districts (3 and 4) it joins are contiguous at one tiny point, then they each go off in totally different directions).  Both districts are much more contiguous with the districts the plaintiffs proposed switching to. And they also point out that the University of Alaska Fairbanks is unnecessarily split into two different Senate seats and the deviations are lower.  They also imply that this was in part done in retaliation against the plaintiffs who live in this district.
"As noted in Mr. Bordie's [sic] comments at the July 17th hearing, the Board was fully aware that the configuration was adverse to the interest of the Ester/Goldstream area [where the plaintiffs live].  The totality of the evidence - -  meandering bizarre shaped district, mixing different communities of interest, and a Board record that clearly demonstrates conflicting political inclinations - - - demonstrates a strong inference of discrimination."

Is everyone totally confused now? Posts with pictures of trees was a lot easier to read (and write.) I hope some of this makes sense and helps a few people understand a little better what is before the court.  Perhaps reading this post will make reading the whole court filing easier.  Although it is 51 pages, the print is big, the line spacing is big, and there are a bunch of maps, so it isn't all that long.  Here's the link to the original filing again.

1 comment:

  1. As always...appreciate your attention to this and the updates.


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