Thursday, December 02, 2021

Some First Quick Thoughts On The Matsu Suit Against The Redistricting Board's Plan

Tthe first suit against the Alaska Redistricting Proclamation Plan has been filed.  By Matsu.  Back in September when all the alternative plans came in, there was one from Matsu.  But when I asked about it, the Board's Executive Director told me 

"The one wrinkle that has emerged is that Mat-Su and AFFER’s plans appear to be identical."

I assumed that's why we never saw that map again.  But I can't find it on the Board's map page, so I can't compare.  AFFER is the group that Randy Ruedrich makes maps for - a very Republican leaning group.

Anyway13. According to the 2020 United States census, Alaska had a population of 733,391 residents, an increase of 23,160 residents. The MSB had a population of 107,081, an increase of 18,086 residents, representing 78 percent of the statewide population growth. 

 the Alaska Landmine put up a link to the suit.  

A quick perusal suggests two major grievances:

  1. Getting paired with Valdez in one district
  2. Being overpopulated

AFFER made a big deal about keeping district deviations low.  But as I looked at the suit, I found these statements surprising:

13. According to the 2020 United States census, Alaska had a population of 733,391 residents, an increase of 23,160 residents. The MSB had a population of 107,081, an increase of 18,086 residents, representing 78 percent of the statewide population growth. 

30. Every House District within the MSB (25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30) exceeds the quotient for the ideal House District. Combined, the total overpopulation of the districts is 13.75 percent. This represents the most significant deviation of any geographic area in the State of Alaska as proposed in the Final Plan. 

31. Comparing the MSB to Anchorage, Anchorage has 18 House Districts included in the Final Plan, of those 18 only two are overpopulated, thus the Anchorage House Districts are underpopulated by 10.02 percent. 

They seem to be monkeying around with percentages to make the Matsu grievances seem terrible.

In 13) they tell us that Matsu had 78% of the growth in the state.  OK, so what difference does that make?  That was, in people, not percentages,18,086.  That's about 269 people under one new ideal House  district.  And Matsu got  a new district..  

In 30)  they again play with percentages.  This looks so obvious that I'm wondering if I'm missing something.  You can't add up percentages to get the cumulative percentage.   Lots of people make this kind of mistake apparently.
"The common error is taking the percentages at face value and adding them together to get the overall percentage change."

Each of these percentages represents district deviation / total district population.

So you have to add up the numbers, not the percentages.  First add the number of people over or under the ideal district size for each district.  Then divide that number by the ideal district size (18335) * 6 (districts)..  Then you do the math to get the percentage of the six districts altogether.   

If you add the number of people above the ideal number (18,335) of people per district, it comes to 2520.  
If you divide that 2520 by the whole population of the Matsu's six districts which they tell us is 107,081 (2520/107,081) the Matsu area is over populated by 2.4%, not 13.75%.  I know Randy Ruedrich is smarter than that, so someone else must have done it, or he must think that the judges would be fooled.  No, he's smarter than that too.  So who did the math

I did not go through all the Anchorage districts to add all the numbers, but the same rule of math applies - you can't add the percentages, you have to add the numbers for each district and then divide the sum, by the total ideal population of all the districts.  

But look again.  They say that Anchorage has 18 House seats.  Throughout this process everyone has always said that Anchorage has 16 House seats.  And when I look at the final map of Anchorage I can only count 15 seats, because the 16th, District 24,  is north, off the map.

That's just a quick look.  These are pretty glaring errors that may torpedo this challenge.  

I do think that fact that Matsu altogether is overpopulated is a legitimate issue.  In urban areas, the deviations should really be about 1% or less  But only tiny parts of Matsu could be considered mini-urban areas.  The rest is more rural, so higher deviations are more acceptable because the population is so scattered.

And pairing Valdez with Matsu is also a potential problem. But finding the right place to put Valdez is hard, because you have to keep the deviations down.  

The issue of taking just Cantwell out of the rest of the Denali Borough is also a reasonable complaint.  The Board did this, as I recall, to include it with other Ahtna region villages.  

The argument that some people made at public hearings - that Matsu is the fastest growing part of the state, so it should be underpopulated to allow for growth - goes against the basic rule of redistricting.  That rule is that the numbers you use are the Census data numbers you are given.  Not some future expectation.  Who know for sure that Matsu will continue to grow into the future?  It has grown in the last two decades and may again.  But it may not.  While the suit points out Matsu's large population increase, I didn't see them making this argument.  

I'm waiting for someone to tell me I'm wrong.   These errors seem way too basic.   It would be embarrassing to be wrong about my math when criticizing someone else's math.  But I do acknowledge that possibility.   I must be missing something.  I have a toothache, so maybe it's messing with my mind.  

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