Thursday, April 15, 2021

Redistricting Board Meeting Friday April 16 (Tomorrow) 2:30 PM - Public Testimony Taken And Voting Rights Act Consultant

 The Board's meeting tomorrow at 2:30.  Here's the agenda:

Date: April 16, 2021

Time: 2:30 pm

Place: Public Numbers: Anchorage 563-9085, Juneau 586-9085, Other 844-586-9085


1. Call to Order

2. Establish a Quorum

3. Adoption of Agenda

4. Public Testimony

5. Adoption of Minutes from past meetings

6. Request for Information for Voting Rights Act Consultant

7. Adjournment  (emphasis added)

As you can see, most of the agenda is procedural.  There are only two items, maybe just one, with any substance.  I had to ask if "Public Testimony" meant they were going to talk about how to do it (since they haven't done that publicly yet) or if they were taking public testimony.  The answer was the latter, which, if I had paid closer attention to the notice at the state public notice site, I would have figured out myself.  

But what is there for the public to comment on?  And how does the public know that they can comment?  I dare say the average Alaskan doesn't know how to find the state's public notice page, or if they do, they can't find the Redistricting Board meeting.  

As of right now, I can't find any mention of the meeting or public testimony on the Redistricting Board's website, where it surely should be.  I would note, though, that you can sign up for email notifications of meetings and other key announcements on the website here.

It would appear the only truly substantive item on the agenda is the  Request for Information for Voting Rights Act Consultant.  What is this?  

The 1965 Voting Rights Act and its later renewal sets out the law for acceptable voting practices including redistricting. 

Alaska was one of 16 states required to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice for their redistricting plans.  It's one of just seven states who were covered in their entirety by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).  The other states only had some jurisdictions that are covered.  

In the 2010 Redistricting process, the Board put Section 5 at the top of their agenda because if the Department of Justice (Obama was president then) didn't approve the redistricting plan, they had to start all over.  But in 2013, after the Board had done everything it could to comply with Section 5, the US Supreme Court invalidated Section 5.  The House passed the renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 with 92% voting for the bill and the Senate voted 98-0 to pass it. I'd note that Alaska's Senators and Representative all voted in favor.  And this shows how messed up Congress has become since then.  

Nevertheless, Supreme Court, only seven years later, said that just because states had problems in1965 that didn't mean they should still be considered problems in 2013 and that Congress needed to reevaluate whether those states still needed pre-clearance.  You can see an extensive history of the bill here from the Congressional Research Service.  

Of course, we seen since then, that many of the 16 states that had required pre-clearance, immediately began finding ways to suppress minority voters.  And many more now are introducing ways to make voting for Blacks and other likely Democratic voters much more difficult.  

Part of getting pre-clearance last time involved a complicated set of formulas for maintaining the power of minorities in certain districts in the State.  In Alaska that meant a number of districts in which Alaska natives had enough population to sway the election. Those requirements are gone now. So the role of the Voting Rights Act consultant is very different, and limited, compared to ten years ago.

Here's a 2011 post called:  Can The Board Keep Nine Native Districts?  to give you a sense of the complexity of what they had to do.  Here's another on the topic:  Boundary Setting And Terminology Around Minority Districts.

And here's a post on the meeting with the Voting Rights Consultant who was calling in from Afghanistan where she was consulting on elections there.  Board Talks to Voting Rights Consultant Lisa Handley Calling from Afghanistan.  My notes say:

One hour meeting talking about
  • What data she'll need to do her analysis
  • Clarifying how to determine "Native"
  • Other issues like whether 35% will be the number still for Native influence districts (not necessarily)
  • How does voting age fit in?
  • Schedule - her return time (April 24), how long until product (three weeks later)

Oh, yes.  Here's a copy of the draft RFI for the Voting Rights Consultant this time:  (sorry, the formatting is a bit off, but you can see the original here - at the bottom after all the minutes.  

(Again, this is a pretty esoteric expertise, particularly necessary every ten years, though I'm sure different states require experts between reapportionment.  This RFI does mention experience in Alaska redistricting which limits things even more.  But I suspect that requirement is NOT required, but desirable.  I'd also note that the RFI does give notice that the proposals may be subject to public disclosure.  That would be helpful for us all to evaluate the competing proposals.  Certainly seeing that Schwabe - the law firm the Board retained - proposal made it clear that that firm had access to Michael White who was the legal consultant to the previous board.  That removed any questions I had about the selection process.)

 SCHWABE DRAFT Request for Information (RFI) Voting Rights Consultant
The State of Alaska, Alaska Redistricting Board, issues this Request for Information (Request) for a Voting Rights Consultant to assist the Board, and prepare a statistical racial bloc voting analysis of statewide and state legislative elections held in Alaska in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.
Scope of Work
The contractor shall provide Consulting Services and Voting Rights Assistance as directed by the Redistricting Board and Project Director.
Services shall include but are not be limited to the following:
1. Preparing a statistical racial bloc voting analysis of the 2012, 2014,2016,2018 and 2020 statewide and state legislative elections in the State of Alaska to determine whether voting in the State of Alaska, or in specific regions of the state, is polarized by race and assist the Board in complying with the Voting Rights Act while creating new legislative districts for the 2022 election cycle. This may include a vote dilution analysis of proposed plans.
This service will include the following tasks:
1. Assisting in the preparation and design of the data base needed to conduct racial bloc voting analyses.
2. Preparing a draft written report and a final written report to the Board outlining the results of the racial bloc voting analysis.
3. Making an oral presentation to the Board of the results of the analysis.
4. Advising the Board on matters pertaining U.S.Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This service may include the following tasks:
1. Assist the Board in determining if one or more proposed redistricting plans may comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
2. Serving as an expert witness for the Redistricting Board on Voting Rights Act issues in any court challenges to the Board’s redistricting plan, including testifying in deposition and/or trial as requested.
3. Performing these tasks and other Redistricting Board Consulting Services/Voting Rights Assistance as required by the Project Director.
4. Travel to the Redistricting Board Office in Anchorage for consulting as requested. Two or more visits may be needed.
Response Requirements
Responses must include the complete name, mailing address, telephone number and email address of the responder(s). Responses must, if applicable, provide notice that the offeror qualifies as an Alaskan bidder. Responses must be signed and dated by the responder.
Offeror must provide:
1. Comprehensive narrative statements that illustrate their understanding of the purpose and scope of this project, any pertinent issues and potential problems, and statements that illustrate their understanding of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the impact of subsequent amendments and court decisions.
2. A description of the offeror’s qualifications and experience in preparing racial bloc voting analyses in Alaska and other jurisdictions.
3. A description of expert witness experience the offeror has provided.
4. A description of the statistical analytical methodology the offeror will employ to perform the required services.
5. A listing of current or past clients similar to the Redistricting Board, a brief description of service provided and a contact name and phone number of each client.
6. A listing of staff experience in advising clients on redistricting/reapportionment in Alaska and other states and jurisdictions.
7. Information on the company ownership,headquarters,branch or affiliate offices, length of time in business,
8. Indicate if the award of this contract would require the acquisition of additional office space, equipment, personnel or any other items. Be as specific as possible, i.e., how much additional space, specific equipment, the number and function of additional employees, etc.

9. Adescription of any distinct and substantive qualifications for undertaking the proposed contract, such as the availability of specialized equipment, awards and recognition received for similar services or special approaches or concepts relevant to the required services under this Request
Costs & Expenses
1. Offeror’s must provide an hourly rate schedule for services provided in order for the proposal to be considered responsive. Proposals received that do not included hourly rate(s) shall be considered non-responsive and shall be rejected.
2. NOTE:Reimbursement for all travel and out-of-pocket expenses shall be limited to the items authorized by the Project Director as set out in a contract resulting from this Request.
Travel to the Redistricting Board Office in Anchorage for consulting as requested. Two or more visits may be needed.
Responders are encouraged to provide a list of references the Board may contact to verify the responder’s character, qualifications and experience.
Funding Source
Funding for the Alaska Redistricting Board is subject to Legislative appropriation.
Submission Details, Deadline
Provide one electronic copy of the requested information to the email address below. Responses to this Request must be received by 4:00 p.m. AST, on May 3, 2021.
This Request in no manner obligates the Board to pursue a contractual relationship with an entity that responds to this Request or limits or restricts the Board to pursue a contractual relationship with an entity that does not respond to this Request.
This Request in no manner obligates the Board to pay any costs incurred in the preparation of any response to this Request. A party responding to this Request is responsible for all costs associated with their response. Responses become the property of the Board and may be subject to public disclosure.
Questions should also be directed to Peter Torkelson at
• • 907-406-2894

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