NH House Republicans - $30,000 Waste For Redistricting Software

From: Vaillancourt, Steve
Sent: Mon 6/14/2010 3:56 PM
To: ~All Representatives
Subject: $30,000 Waste For Redistricting Software

To:  Speaker Terri Norelli, Other Reps, Media

From:  Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, Hills. 15

Re:  Redistricting Software Waste

June 14, 2010

As I alluded to during one of my questions on the House floor last week, word is out that your office (the House, so I assume it comes from your office) is anxious to spend $30,000 of state money on redisticting software.

Please consider this email as a request not to spend this $30,000 or at least to hold off until after the November election, so any newly elected officials can determine whether or not such an expense is justified.

I personally do not believe any such software is either necessary or wise.  Basically only threee things, all basically without cost, are necessary to come up with a grade A redistricting plan:  a calculator, a map of the state (showing contiguous communities) and the new census data showing population figures for every city, town, and ward.  Oh yes, plus a lot of time by people dedicated enough to make the numbers work out, and some scrap paper.

When we heard about the latest state population numbers last December, I spent the week between Christmas and New Years coming up with redistricting plans (Cheshire County for the House posed the only real problem).  Actually, I came up with three plans for the 24 Senate districts (one with Manchester down from three to two senators since its population of approx 110,000 is ideal for two senators; one with Manchester keeping three senators; and another reworking the lines of district one, coming down into Carroll County rather than farther into Grafton County--take your pick--with North Country poulation not keeping pace, one of the two changes will be necessary).

I would be happy to share this data with anyone interested and won't charge a penny, let alone $30,000.  The reason I've hesitated to do so thus far is that we are sure to have population shifts prior to the official data comiung out.  For example, there appear to be major discrepancies between state and federal numbers in at least two areas, Coos County (Berlin) and Grafton County (Lebanon).  The wisest course of action is to wait until we get the data, and let the new legislature sort it out.

My contention is that having expensive software may actually be a bad thing in that people who have such "toys" tend to get lazy and think technology can do the work for them.  It's far better to have to sit down with a clear head and clear calculator and actually run the numbers by hand.  Human beings know things computers programs never will, things such as which communities would best be grouped together in Rep or Senate districts, something we failed to get ten years ago when the Court hired someone totally into numbers but not versed in NH geography or traditions.  I could give numerous examples, but I assume for the task here, you take my word for it.

I'll gladly share the work I've done thus far on this, but keep in mind, numbers will change.  For example, while the average House member represented 3089 people in 2001, it looks like the number will be north of 3300 this year, and the average Senate district will be about 55,000.  Population was growing at almost one percent a year early in the decade but has slowed to less than that the past two years, so we can assume that the state poplation in 2011 will be approx eight percent more than in 2001.

No software is necessary to figure this out and I urge you not to waste valuable state dollars in the rush to further enslave us to technology.