Sunday, November 21, 2021

AK Redistricting Board GOP Members Use Allocation To Punish Moderate Republicans

I've been slogging through the Nov. 9 video of the Board's truncation discussion and the Senate seat cycle allocation battle.  I'll get up a discussion of what happened later.   In this post I want to look at why the GOP-appointed members of the Board gave up all pretense of comity and just used their 3-2 majority to bulldoze their plan through.  I'm sure they felt upset by the previous attacks on the Senate pairings - but the attacks were well earned.  But there's been enough attention there.  So let's look at what they were fighting for.  

[I've put some background information down at the bottom for anyone who needs boning up on truncation and allocation of election years.  Look for the big bolded heading at the bottom of the post.]

At the time the allocation battle was fought on November 9, I wondered why this was so important.  I thought perhaps they were trying to make it more difficult for Democrats.  Forcing them into another election costs them time, money, and there's always the chance they could lose. But after reviewing who all got forced into an extra election via the election year allocation process,  for the most part they used it to punish those Republican senators who did not support Dunleavy, but worked with Democrats on many issues.  

Bethany Marcum, one of Dunleavy's picks for the Board, insisted on starting with Seat A and alternating through the alphabet of Senate seats assigning 2 year and 4 year terms. The members who were appointed by Independents suggested flipping a coin to determine if they started with Seat A or Seat T to avoid any appearance of partisanship.  When they asked the majority bloc of Republican appointees what their problem was with flipping a coin, they got answers that changed the subject or no answer at all.  The GOP members were not going to take a chance.  They clearly had an assignment to deliver and that's what they did.  

What was their goal?  To punish moderate Republicans and those who even only sometimes went against Dunleavy's wishes.  [I checked with a very politically savvy Alaskan who helped me divide the Republicans into these groups.]  The punishment is they have shortened terms (from four years to two years) to get back on the cycle of ten senators one election year and ten the next.) And thus they have an extra election they have to run in.  So, in the charts below: 

  • Blue is Democrats.  
  • Brownish is Moderate Republicans
  • Pinkish is Republicans who sometimes work with Democrats
  • Red is Dunleavy loyal Republicans

  • Column 1 are the names of Senators.  
  • Column 2 shows which ones have to run for an extra election based on allocation of seat rotation cycle.  (Some have an extra election because of truncation but that's not on here because it's not the result of allocation to a rotation cycle.)
  • Column 3 shows the number of extra elections per senator and per group if the rotation had been switched. (Either starting with Senate seat T, or starting with 4 instead of 2.)

For Democrats it's kind of a wash.  Four extra elections either way, though all but Kawasaki are in relatively safe districts.  

But look at what happened to the Moderate Republicans.  All of them were forced into an extra election by the 3-2 allocation decision of the Board.  And von Imhoff?  Her seat was divided into three Senate seats and she's only listed as a footnote on the Board's chart.  Based on a Google search of her address, she would be in Mia Costello's district which is 88.3% the old Costello district.  
If the rotation had been reversed, none of the Moderate Republicans would have an extra election. 

Now let's look at the less moderate, but not totally loyal to the Governor, Republicans in pink.  The two were forced to each have an extra election because of the rotation.  If the rotation were reversed, neither would have had an extra election due to rotation. Wilson has two extra elections because he was due to run again in 2024, but because of truncation, he has to run in 2022 (a two year term) and again in 2024 (another two year term.) 

And finally those Republicans who are good Dunleavy loyalists.  Only one out of six has to run an extra election.  If it were switched, 5 out of six would have had to run.  

So, the impact on Republican Senators was the reason the GOP-appointed Board members were not even going to discuss why they were so hell bent on doing it their way and rammed this through over the objections of the two Independent appointed Board members.  

But, you might ask, if they rotated one seat this way and the other seat that way, how could it turn out so lopsided?  
  1. First, there are 13 Republicans and only seven Democrats in the Senate, so more Republicans are going to be affected anyway.
  2. By carefully numbering the House seats and carefully pairing them you can work out an order that alternates the Moderate Republicans. It's a bit tricky and you have to be thinking ahead.
  3. Randy Ruedrich, the former Republican Party chair, has been heavily involved with redistricting since at least the 2000 process.  He has all the districts and all the incumbents in his head.  He is walking with a cane now and moves slower, but I saw no signs that his brain wasn't at full capacity.  And the Board didn't approve the final Senate pairings until the morning of November 9, the same day that truncation and allocation took place.  Marcum's map of the rejiggered Anchorage Senate pairings didn't show up until that morning.  They worked very carefully on those that night.  Board member Bahnke said that day, "I was taken totally by surprise."
They weren't able to make it work out perfectly, but they get every one of the Moderate Republicans and even the sometimes Moderate Republicans to run an extra election and all but one of the loyal Dunleavy Republicans got a free pass on the extra election from allocation.  (A few got an extra election through truncation.)

I'm guessing that Randy Ruedrich doesn't even care anymore about this intra-party squabble.  For him, I think this just a chess game.  It's a test of whether he can pull it off.  He's got a lot of knowledge due to his participation in this process over the years, and he's very smart.  And he likes to win.  He's played on the Oil Companies' team for so long it's just habit now. Or so I'm guessing.

How the House districts got configured and numbered didn't happen in public. Nor did the final Anchorage Senate pairings that showed up on that Tuesday morning and were quickly voted on with no discussion. In a future post I will go through the allocation process really carefully to show that:
  1. It was really sloppy
    1. If each of the Board members would have been asked to privately write down the motion that was passed, they would all be different
    2. And if asked how it would be carried out, those would be all different too.
  2. The GOP appointed members essentially stonewalled the Independent appointed members 
  3. The GOP group had a prearranged plan (with Ruedrich's fingerprints on it) and they were not going to break ranks.  I'm pretty sure there was a lot of behind the scenes pressure on them to vote "the right way."  Especially after Budd Simpson broke ranks on the House districts previously.  I'd note that when I tried to ask him questions when it was over, he flatly refused to answer any questions. He said, "I don't talk to bloggers."

Here's the Board's chart post allocation that was created on November 9, 2021 after the allocation decisions were made.  It's taken me a long time to figure out the last two columns and how the staff figured out what to do.  And I think there's an error or two in the last column.  But that's for the post on the process that resulted in the chart. 

Do the extra elections matter?  It's not really clear.  But in the last election, two long standing Republican Senators lost their seats in the primaries to more conservative Republicans.  One was the Senate president who worked with the Democrats and the other was long time conservative Sen Coghill from the Fairbanks area.  These moderate Republicans are blocking Dunleavy from getting all he wants and the Republican party is set on getting rid of them.  

With closed primaries ended, it may be harder to bump off these Moderate Republicans and replace them with Republicans more loyal to Dunleavy.  The top four candidates of all parties now will run against each other in the ranked choice general election.  And Dunleavy himself is on the ballot.  So time will tell.  

In the meanwhile the allocation of Senate terms to one cycle or the next  was just as partisan and just as forced as the Eagle River pairings, but the outcome was less visible.  I hope I've made it more visible here.  

BACKGROUND   (I said this be down here at the end for those who need it)

There are three basic functions for the Board, regarding the Senate seats:

  1. Pairing house seats into Senate seats.  There are 40 house seats.  Two house seats have to be paired to make a Senate seat.  The key criterion is that they are contiguous.  Compactness is another feature.  But how you pair seats can also affect the next election.  
    1. In this round there's been a lot of justifiable fuss over the pairing of the two Eagle River seats, not with each other, but with Government Hill in one case and with South Muldoon in another.  Goldstream folks in Fairbanks were first upset that they weren't in a House district with nearby areas such as Ester and the University.  And in Anchorage Senator von Imhoff's Senate seat was so dismembered that on the Board's charts her name is left off (except for a footnote saying her seat was now in three different Senate seats) that only Mia Costello's name is listed for her Senate seat. (I think she's in Seat K based on an address on 100th Ave that Google provided.) 
    2. Also, how the House seats are numbered affects the letters of the Senate seats. So House districts 1 and 2 are in Southeast Alaska and combine into Senate Seat A.  The order of the Senate seats matters when it comes to allocation of seats to the Senate election cycle - see below.
  2. Truncation - once the seats are paired, they get truncated.  That is, those seats with a significant number of new voters have to run again in the very next election. This is based on the notion that people shouldn't be represented by people they didn't have a chance to vote for. This year they made the cutoff at 16.3% new voters (or less than 83.7% old voters) in a Senate seat.  The debate on this was polite and seemingly non-partisan.  (I say seemingly because there's always a chance I missed something.)  There are 20 Senate seats with four year terms and the Alaska constitution requires ten run at one election cycle and the others run at the next one.  So ten of the Senators would be running in 2022 anyway.  Only ten Senate seats were possibly subject to truncation.  Six of them had terms that were up in 2024 and were forced to run again in 2022.
  3. Allocation of election year rotation. Finally, the Board has to make sure that ten Senators will run in one election year and the other ten in the next election year.  This is the part I'm focusing on here.  How they did it will come later, but here I'm going to show the outcome and why the GOP appointed members refused to budge.  

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