Monday, April 18, 2011

Gerry Mander in Alaska

It has been an insanely busy month, and more excitement is coming down the pike.

The big news is from ol' Gerry Mander hisself, from a recent triumphant presentation in Alaska of How to Screw the Voters. Here's what will happen to the districts in which Goldstream and Ester lie, according to the News-Miner:
One notable shift at home: Ester, Fox and much of the Goldstream Valley would join a giant rural House district that includes scores of communities from across the state. It would straddle the Fairbanks area and stretch completely across Alaska — from the southwestern village of Holy Cross north to Arctic Village and southeast again to Chitina.:
Does this make sense at ALL? There was some of this before, too, almost as ridiculous: Coghill's district stretches from North Pole to Valdez.

Here's what Wikipedia says about gerrymandering:
In the process of setting electoral districts, rather than using uniform geographic standards, Gerrymandering is a practice of political corruption that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected, and neutral districts. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander.…

The two aims of gerrymandering are to maximize the effect of supporters' votes and to minimize the effect of opponents' votes. One strategy, packing, is to concentrate as many voters of one type into a single electoral district to reduce their influence in other districts. In some cases this may be done to obtain representation for a community of common interest, rather than to dilute that interest over several districts to a point of ineffectiveness. A second strategy, cracking, involves spreading out voters of a particular type among many districts in order to deny them a sufficiently large voting bloc in any particular district. The strategies are typically combined, creating a few "forfeit" seats for packed voters of one type in order to secure even greater representation for voters of another type.

Gerrymandering is effective because of the wasted vote effect. By packing opposition voters into districts they will already win (increasing excess votes for winners) and by cracking the remainder among districts where they are moved into the minority (increasing votes for eventual losers), the number of wasted votes among the opposition can be maximized. Similarly, with supporters holding narrow margins in the unpacked districts, the number of wasted votes among supporters is minimized.

While the wasted vote effect is strongest when a party wins by narrow margins across multiple districts, gerrymandering narrow margins can be risky when voters are less predictable. To minimize the risk of demographic or political shifts swinging a district to the opposition, politicians can instead create more packed districts, leading to more comfortable margins in unpacked ones.
There is a public hearing in Fairbanks April 19, Tuesday, 2 to 6 pm at the Fairbanks City Hall, City Council Chamber on the 2nd floor: If you would like to comment on the utter monstrosity of a jerrymandered redistricting, please come to this hearing! If you are in another city, other hearings are taking place also and you can find out more from the Alaska Redistricting Board's website. PLEASE NOTE that I have also heard that these hearings will end at 4 pm, not 6, so I don't know if they've been curtailed, expanded, or if this is just a rumor. Getting there early if you can will be important. I will be taking time off work to get there.

Interesting how they timed it for most people's working hours, hmm?

At any rate, you might consider whether it is equitable or reasonable for Ester's Senate district to include--and no, I am NOT kidding--Sitka, or for us to be in the same district as, say, Arctic Village. This won't help the Bush and it sure won't help Ester or Fairbanks or Goldstream (or Sitka or Holy Cross) to be properly represented. This is sheer stupidity. There are two official options, both of which are clearly attempts to split voting blocks, with no regard for whether the residents of these areas have any commonalities of need or location. This won't serve anybody well. There are a few privately-suggested plans, also shown on the Board's website. There are several organizations proposing options.


Brook said...

I called the Alaska Redistricting Board to find out how to submit testimony if you can't make it to the meeting. You know, cause some of us work...

1- On May 6, 2-6PM there will be a call-in to give public testimony: 1-855-463-5009

2- Send a letter by May 13 to:
Alaska Redistricting Board
411 W 4th Avenue, Suite 302
Anchorage, AK 99501

jamie said...

Cutting & pasting some relevant snippets of info in case folks miss the April 19th gig:

A statewide teleconference will be held on Friday, May 6th via the Alaska Legislative Information Office (LIO) network.
Time: 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The afternoon session will be reserved for public comments on draft plans released by the Board. This is the last date for public testimony before the Board begins deliberations on a final redistricting plan. A supplemental notice will be issued listing the LIO locations participating in the teleconference and a toll-free call-in number for those who do not have access to an LIO.

The deadline for submission of written comments, plans or plan revisions is 5:00PM (ADT) May 13th. In drafting a final redistricting plan, the Board is not obligated to consider comments, plans or revisions submitted after that date and time.


To assist the Board in its work, the public is invited to submit comments on the data and proposed redistricting plans via:

- Email (
- Mail (411 West Fourth Avenue, Suite 302, Anchorage, AK 99501)
- Fax (907-269-6691)
For more info: Redistricting Board Office at (907) 269-7402.