Saturday, March 31, 2012

Redistricting Board Adopts, In Concept, "The Bethel-Chain Amended Proclamation Plan"

Overview of Saturday March 31, 2012 Meeting

  1. Looked at two maps the sent to VRA expert and discussed her findings and how the fixed them.
  2. Chose to adopt, in concept, a map called "Bethel-Chain Amended Proclamation Plan" which was yesterday's 3/30 - 1 with changes after VRA review.
    1. Basic Change = get HD 37 Native VAP up, move Nunivak from 38 to 37, 
  3. Gave the staff and attorney power to clean up the plan, and get documents ready to send to VRA and to courts.
  4. Approved in concept: senate pairings, truncation, term lengths.
  5. Will meet one more time, probably Wednesday afternoon, to formally approve everything. 
[UPDATE 9:30pm:  The Board's website has added an announcement plus a map

A preliminary statewide map is available for download here*. Additional maps and data will be added to and distributed via email on Monday, April 2nd.]

Basically, the board is done except for cleaning up and final formal approvals.
They presented their two plans - one that is relatively similar to the Proclamation plan, but rejoins the Aleutian Chain and fixes House Districts 1 and 2 in Fairbanks and, presumably, puts both City of Fairbanks House Districts into a single Senate seat. [In the end, that happened.]  Then it makes some adjustments to the Native districts to get overall population deviations within 10%.  One change from yesterday was moving Nunivak Island from HD 38 to HD 37.

There weren't any new maps available and maps of each district weren't available.  Talking after the meeting, my understanding is that Senator Paskvan and Senator Thomas are no longer paired in Fairbanks.  But I believe that Ester and Goldstream are still part of a rural Native District, that goes from McCarthy in the west, up along the Canadian border and across Alaska to the west and includes Nome and Gamble and Savoonga.  [They're in District 38 that goes west to Hooper Bay.]

 It's been a hectic week for the staff.  They had to be at the meetings and then afterward they were making maps.   The last meeting posted on their website is for Wednesday.  I'm sure now they will be able to catch up.  Many if not all of the districts in Southeast, Anchorage, are the same.  I think Kenai and Matsu have some changes.  The Board members have the statewide maps on their computers which they can enlarge to see districts, but details weren't worked out until late last night or early this morning and there were no maps available of the individual districts.  Even the new statewide map wasn't handed out.  They just explained changes to the map they presented yesterday.

The Bethel-Chain Plan - Adopted in Concept

This is the map we got yesterday. [UPDATE:  The new map is available here.  You can enlarge it greatly, but the urban districts are still hard to see.  Districts 3 and 4 are City of Fairbanks.  The Anchorage districts should be the same as the previous Proclamation plan, but we'll have to wait to see for sure.] The most obvious change I know about is that Nunivak Island, the red island on the left, has moved from district 38 to district 37.  It should be green on that map now.  Those two are in a single senate district which is connected by water via the island. 

The other plan they had sent to the VRA expert is similar, but connects the Bethel House District with a House District in west Anchorage to create a Native Senate seat.

Both maps had problems with the Native Voting Age Population in District 37, but were otherwise found to probably be VRA compliant.  So they made changes to get the VAP higher in 37 - including moving Nunivak Island to 37.  The first plan, they said, had fewer deviations from the constitution than the Anchorage - Bethel plan.  

In the end the Board adopted the first one which they had some trouble naming and even after naming it they weren’t completely consistent.  Board Chair Torgerson called it the Bethel-Chain Amended Proclamation Plan.   They spent most of their time going over all the potential problems and explaining very carefully their rationale for what they did in language that hold up in court.  I couldn’t help thinking “just because you say the words, doesn’t mean it’s actually so.”  But they have said all the right words - I think - so they can go back to the transcripts and say, “here, we said that” over and over again. 

They then asked staff to go through the plan, make necessary minor changes, set up the Senate pairings, truncation, calculate which Senate seats would be 2 year and which 4 year, do the metes and bounds, and all the other details that are necessary to turn in with the plan.   Here's my explanation of truncation and Senate terms from last June 12:

1.   Substantially changed district requires new election.  Elected officials should represent the people who elected them.  But when the districts are substantially changed by redistricting, they have new constituents who didn't vote in their new districts.  And thus this new population is represented by

someone they had no say about.  So, it is believed  that a substantially changed new district should vote for its senator as soon as possible - which would be November 2012. 

So, truncation is the process of cutting short the terms of sitting Senators in those new districts that have substantially new populations so that the people can vote for the representative at the soonest possible election. [This is not an issue for House districts since they are all two year terms.]

2.  Two or Four Year Terms?  Alaska Senators serve for four years in staggered terms.   From the Alaska Constitution:

The term of representatives shall be two years, and the term of senators, four years. One-half of the senators shall be elected every two years.  [emphasis added]
Thus, in addition to truncating, the board has to make sure that half the seats are up for election every two years. So, for 2012, half the Senators would normally be up for reelection and the other half would be in "mid-term" - that is, they have two more years left in their terms and wouldn't normally be up for reelection until 2014.  Unless their districts have been substantially changed. 
They were pretty much certain that truncation would be pretty much like the Proclamation Plan that was sent back by the Supreme Court, but the GIS expert, Eric Sandberg, had gone back to Juneau and is the only one who could calculate whether a district had 'substantially changed.' Last time they figured all the districts except Juneau had substantially changed so all the Senators except Sen. Egan have to run in 2012.  They've assumed the same is true for this plan.  The actual percent of new voters in a district needed to truncate is vague, but 90% the same is ok and under 70% the same isn't.  You can go back to that June 2011 post to see more on this.

Metes and Bounds is the written description of each district.  I have a post on that from last June 13, 2011 as well when they did that the first time if you want to know more on that.

I've made a table based on the handouts and the discussion to show for each senate district:
  • The house seats
  • Next election
  • Term length from 2012 election

Senate District House Districts Next Election Term Length from 2012
A 1 & 2 2012 4
B 3 & 4 2012 2
C 5 & 6 2012 4
D 7 & 8 2012 2
E 9 & 10 2012 4
F 11 & 12 2012 2
G 13 & 14 2012 4
H 15 & 16 2012 2
I 17 & 18 2012 4
J 19 & 20 2012 2
K 21 & 22 2012 4
L 23 & 24 2012 2
M 25 & 26 2012 4
N 27 & 28 2012 2
O 29 & 30 2012 4
P 31 & 32 2014 2
Q 33 & 34 2012 4
R 35 & 36 2012 2
S 37 & 38 2012 4
T 39 & 40 2012 2

Here are my ROUGH notes from today's almost final meeting of the Board.  Remember, a fair amount is missing and there may well be mistakes.  Beware.

Alaska Redistricting Board meeting Saturday March 31, 2012

10:14:  Got here just now, [it started at 10]  Bickford finishing talking about two plans.
[Checking during the break, the key change seems to be moving Nunivak Island from from HD 38 to HD 37.  There were some other minor changes and a village or two was switched.  This was all done to keep deviations.]

White:  VRA issues?  We both talked late with Lisa, she indicated some issues with House District 37.  Wanted the number higher than the 41.5%.  Changes Taylor just told you about were designed to fix those problems.  Lisa up late for us, and she says it now meets the numbers.  Like last time, she doesn’t think it’s a slam dunk, because trial court said we can’t divide the Chain.  Lower chain is mostly non-native.  When we drop down to that 41% we’re having trouble.  When we got pre-clearance, it was the first time DOJ cleared under 50% this year.

You remember from the trial what we talked about Lisa and Dr. Arrington said ‘ability to elect’ is dichotomy, thumbs up or down.  Compared to benchmark, this is not retrogressive.  Lisa:  you have a good shot if you have Native support behind you.  Amicus briefs sent to the court said they do not want their incumbents paired.  Wanted to comply with VRA and did least harm to Constitution.
Taylor Bickford: I think you said under the proclamation - you said 71%, not so, was actually 46%.  That district more closely resembles then.  Lisa:  Why are you dropping from 46 to 41 - we said because the Court said we can’t split the chain. 

White:  Now that we put the chain back together and Lisa wanted to look at effectiveness.  Concerns about dropping number, but by moving it back up she feels better.  Again, Native support will be important. 

Taylor Bickford:  We’re looking at this plan.  Also analyzed Anchorage plan.  Differences in how 37 arranged.  That plan after looking at numbers, you had a harder fight to make for VRA. 
Torgerson:  Her analysis wasn’t the Bethel Anchorage pairing, but …
Taylor Bickford: Any time you do a pairing like that with rural losing population. . .[I think this was looking at if the district would continue to be effective as population shifts.]
Also concerned about how chain configured.
White:  In the current plan, ????? native loses ???? can’t say. We don’t know what the standard is 2002 plan or proclamation plan?  [yesterday Board said the benchmark is the last VRA approved plan 'in effect." So they aren't sure if the Proclamation plan was ever in effect."]    When we present to DOJ we’ll show why it is not retrogressive to either plan.  that’s all I have.
Torgerson:  Questions?
White:  thank you Mr. Chairman.  You have the Bethel?  I can do comparison on just one.  We did our Hickel - this is the most constitutional plan in the history of the state
Torgerson:  The universe.
White:  But Lisa said not VRA compliant.  We had to make the map comply with the least necessary reasonable harm to the Constitution.  Two fixes.
1.  fifth effective house seat - 6
Taylor Bickford:  37 under the plan
White:  Call that district there, the interior comes around.  To do that, court found did least harm to fix both in Bethel plan and here, HD 39, will have some compactness and SE Integration issues.  Best fix is the configuration of 38 and 39.  Bottom line is least harm you can get away with to the constitution.
Third party plans had districts that affected the constitution 3 or 4 times.  Can argue that it is compact, similar to Valdez.  need to ????
2.  How to get the 3rd effective senate seat.  Because court mandated putting chain back together.  Required difficult machinations.  This plan does that without any real harm, only I see - senate pairing 37 and 38.  Trial court didn’t like this amount of open water, but far less than here.
Taylor Bickford:  said for house district
Torgerson:  You are saying "here," but using pointer, people here can see that
White:  In 37 we split Aleutian chain and paired it across the island to Bethel.  Trial court said no, SC didn’t say, but threw out their numbers.  Only rationale still applicable, not paring Native incumbents.  Key issue here, Trial court dealing with house seat.  Constitution Contiguous, compact, and SocioEconomic Integration.  Only requirement for Senate seat is as contiguous as possible.  I take that to allow this pairing across Nunivak Island. 
Torgerson:  In past plans, court has accepted connection over water.  The old Kodiak - Ketchikan was 1000 miles across water.  OK, because court has approved larger water crossings.
White:  In order to avoid splitting the chain, this is less harm, if it is even a violation at all.  We have lots of islands, this is nearly as practical. 
Taylor Bickford:  Nunivak Island has to go in one of the districts.  I wanted to make sure you are talking about minimal harm.  I’m not sure there is any harm to the Alaska constitution.
White:  I agree ……...necessitated by the need to create 3rd Senate seat.
Green:  Did you try to go this way too?  Along the coast? 
Taylor Bickford:  Yes, I tried to do that, but you cannot connect Bethel portion of 37 to 38 by land without adding too much population.  We started with Proclamation plan with that connected, but reuniting the chain made it hard.  Can make it contiguous by land, but then you have to split the chain.
White:  I don’t see any problem with the constitution in any of the others.  Geographic reality.  Because Hickel Plan does not comply with VRA, to make that plan comply have to take 39 in a way that doesn’t strictly comply with compactness and maybe SEI .  38 population issues that have nothing to do with VRA, Fairbanks still contains a good portion of 38, you can do it either of two ways and push it over to the heavily populated native areas on the coast.
Torgerson:  You are making it sound you could create another map.
White:  By unpacking the nearest area to grab - the Wade Hampton area is ?????
Torgerson:  How did the trial court rule on 38.
White:  urban and rural need to be combined, reasonable to do that, but reasonable harm, speculative pairing argument, I think that’s wrong because the pairing had nothing to do with 38 because same in PAM_E plan and Proclamation.  Districts you have to depart from C are 37 and 38.
Taylor Bickford:  I might be a little stubborn.  You’re talking about 39.  I’m not sure that isn’t compact.  Only so much you can do in rural Alaska.
Torgerson:  I don’t want you two to debate.
White: I would agree with you that an argument can be made based on AK geography.
Torgerson:  What about Kenai B?  How many times did we split it?
Taylor Bickford:  Twice.  This portion here is Tyonek - Beluga and needed to put it in some Native District.  In this case picked up by 36.  Second split by Kodiak.  Two villages from tip of Peninsula here, put into 36.
Torgerson:  Just curious, trying to put Tyonek back into Kenai.
White:  Kodiak doesn’t have enough population, have to get it from somewhere.  To get enough Native population need to get it to push up the VAP.
Taylor Bickford: Very good point, deviation too high and need population.  This was in proclamation plan.
Torgerson:  You were using your pointer, want people online to know what ‘over there meant’  picking up community in ????
White:  Although issue addressed in trial court (reasonable and justifiable to split Fairbanks two ways) not address by SC. 
????????  Nothing wrong with previous plan - except 6 and 2 and 1.

Torgerson:  Anchorage to Bethel
White:  Except for VRA, major difference is that in Bethel to Anchorage plan, two Senate districts that would cross over water.  36 across Cook Inlet and takes a HD in Anchorage.  In this plan only once in Anchorage-Bethel plan do it twice.  Fact you only have to do it once, makes the first unnamed plan, makes it do less harm to Constitution than Anchorage-Bethel. 
Which one does less harm is the one Taylor presented this morning.
Torgerson:  Questions?
10:44  Refer to Bethel as the Chain plan. 
White:  No pairings of Native incumbents, to be on the record, except Kookesh in Southeast. 
Torgerson:  I’m ready for a motion to adopt the plan.  Procedural question for you, we call this the amended proclamation plan or make, we have to be able to identify this plan.
White:  I anticipate adopt in concept for staff to clean up , call it Bethel-Chain Amended Proclamation Plan.
Brodie:  I move to adopt the plan as presented, known as the Bethe-Chain Amended Proclamation plan in concept.
Torgerson:  seconded by b member green..  Add allow staff to make necessary changes, in concept and we’ll have metes and bounds.
Vote: 5-0  Adopted the Bethel-Chain Alaska map.  In concept.  At this time we could do motion to authorize staff to make minor changes - then 1/10th of 1% maybe have to go a little higher now.  When they do metes and bounds if they find things improper, they have the authority to fix those.
Moved by PeggyAnn McConnochie and second
Taylor Bickford:  Are we sending a baseline?  We may need more than 1/10 of 1%
Torgerson:  I did bring that up.  No, I think you can note any changes you make.  I suggested to board we have tighter range of all the maps before us.  In this case we have less of the map you are working on.  If you find anomalies, let us know and we can adopt them
Roll call vote:  5-0 yes
Adopted allowing staff to clean it up.  D
Need to do Senate pairings, I’m assuming all the same,
[I took a 4 minute break]

Taylor Bickford:  We know the senate pairings for Sen districts would be the same.  if we combine City of Fairbanks, Paskvan would still have to run in 2012.
Torgerson:  All the geniuses here and Eric is the only one who can do this?
Taylor Bickford:  I believe he gets off at two.
Torgerson:  I’d like to adopt those today.  Then we’d have a complete plan.  People out there are waiting to see what we’ve done.  Let’s take about a 30 minute recess, Try to get hold of Eric.  I don’t mind doing this over teleconference.  I didn’t know Eric was leaving until yesterday afternoon.  Jim were going to go off line.  Break until 11:30.

PeggyAnn McConnochie:  Move to Adopt Senate Pairings iinto Bethel-Chain plan
these are the same as in the Proclamation Plan?
[I've put these in the table above]

Taylor Bickford:  Yes. 
White:  For the record, the issue of whether or not Fairbanks is entitled to a seat of its own, but the Board has decided a plan that puts the city of Fairbanks back together leaving that legal issue unresolved.
Holm:  I don’t.  Can you have Taylor describe for me 1,2, 3, 4.?  Describe the boundaries for my edification.
1 is essentially what used to be 4?
Taylor Bickford: NO, 1 is what used to be 2.
2 is what used to be 4.
Holm:  You numbered from east side of the city.  Doesn’t have any of the roads, but the populations are right so that’s good.

Roll call 5-0 

PeggyAnn McConnochie:  Move on truncations
A -4
[This is actually setting the term lengths, not truncation.  I have this in the chart above.]

Is there a second?  I would also say this is the same as the Proclamation plan.  We don’t have the data for sure on changes in districts.  Our GIS expert is not here, but if there are any changes

White:  What we have here is assigned the districts and years, but we haven’t actually done the truncations.  First you have to truncate and then you assign the years.  That was assigned randomly based on Senate Seat P which is not truncated [Egan in Juneau has substantially the same district.]
Brodie:  I’d like to table Ms. McConnochie’s motion.
Torgerson:  I think we can fix this in 30 seconds.  I don’t want to have 60 calls asking me  this.
Taylor Bickford:  This assumes all are truncated.
11:39   Off the record.

There’s some disagreemnt among the board members.  Bickford pointed out that they haven’t done the analysis of the populations of the districts to determine.

PeggyAnn McConnochie:  read the truncated districts:
Is that not what you wanted?
White:  I understand this to be the truncated districts, old ones last time in proclamation plan.
Taylor Bickford:  I understand but I don’t understand why reading the districts from the old plan
Torgerson:  Let me bring this back.
Moved to adopt the truncation.
5-0   Board has adopted truncation.
Next motion SEnate terms
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  I’ll go thru them one more time.  Reads all the districts, alternately 2 and 4 years starting with A.
Roll Call:  5-0  for.
Torgerson:  Board has adopted.
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  Motion to direct legal and staff to findings thaxxxxxxt are on the record?  
White:  I think that’s fine, summarize the informal written findings?
Roll call:  5- 0  has authorized the staff to make written findings for presentation to the board in the future.
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  Authorize legal to make any preparation for legal filings necessary????
Torgerson:  Authorize legal  to start proceedings to file in court. 
Roll Call:  5-0 yes. 
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  I’d like to authorize legal to start preparing documents for pre-clearance with DOJ.
Roll Call 5-0 yes

Torgerson:  The Board will get back together for teleconference of board to approve the formal proclamation and everything we approved in concept today.  At this point don’t see need for face-to-face we can.  Any guestimates for day?
White:  If you called meeting for Wednesday afternoon, but staff has to be ready.
Torgerson:  It will be Wednesday or thursday.  We have to notice the meeting.  Notived for all next week, but not for teleconference.  We’ll look at that, Wed or Thursday unless some issue comes up and we have to come together.
Then this board is adjourned.  No time for speeches.
Holm:  I’d just like to thank each of you for all the hard work you’ve done.
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  I’d like to thank everyone including Taylor and Mike and the court Reporter.
Green:  The same.
Torgerson:  Do we need the court reporter to transcribe the teleconference.
Anything else?  It’s 11:53 we are adjourned.

1 comment:

  1. Very disappointed in Juneau's rep on the Redistricting Board--Peggy McConnochie.

    It is clear she had been looking out for Republican incumbents in SE and has ignored both constituent input and also better third-party plans. The RIGHTS Coalition Plan/Plan W represents best the residents of SE overall and is endorsed by folks in all four SE districts.


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