Friday, July 24, 2015

The Big Fix

While the mayor and the Common Council are wrawling over two details of the ward boundaries, the Legal Committee is pursuing a multistep plan, which probably will not be fully implemented until 2018, to redivide the city into five "equipopulos districts" and eliminate the arcane and inequitable weighted vote system. This journey of a thousand miles begins with a resolution to hold a referendum this November "to decide if the manner of voting pursuant to Charter 12-13 shall be amended and the manner of such amendment."

The resolution, which the Legal Committee agreed Wednesday to move forward to the full Council in August, proposes that the following question appear on the ballot in the general election on November 3:
Shall the Common Council of the City of Hudson amend the City Charter to replace the current method of weighted voting utilized by the Common Council with voting districts of equal population such that every resident of the City of Hudson is equally represented on the City Council?
The referendum is just the beginning. As Legal Committee chair John Friedman (Third Ward) noted, "All the work happens after this referendum." That work includes appointing, by a convoluted formula meant to ensure that it is both apolitical and nonpartisan, a "Redistricting Commission" that will be given a year to come up with a scheme to divide the city into five districts of equal population. Once that's accomplished, another referendum will be required to adopt the plan.


  1. More evidence of CC hypocrisy. Mr. Friedman wants to put the weighted vote construction to a city-wide referendum, but he did his best to silence 500 petitioners who wanted an environmental review of the sewer-separation project. He wouldn't even let that resolution asking for an environmental review come to the floor of the Common Council for discussion. It's amazing how champions of democracy can be turned into advocates of stealth and secrecy when it serves their interests.

  2. An advantage of a multi-step process is that it separates the principle (equipopulous districts), from the practice (what the actual ward boundaries are).

    In 2003, the referendum was 50:50 in most of the city, but was strongly opposed by two voting districts:

    2-1: +4 for
    3-1: +4 for
    3-2: -5 against
    4-1: 0 tied
    5-2: +9 for
    sum: +12 for

    1-1: -30 against
    5-1: -50 against

    Because Ward 1 is so small, it is going to be absorbed into Ward 3 under any sort of plan. The proposal in 2003 would have shifted the portion of Ward 5 between 5th and 7th into Ward 4. Whether that was the source of opposition, I don't know. Where did the aldermen at that time reside?

    You have posted a 6-ward plan in the past. I do not believe that was what was voted on in 2003. The resolutions passed by the Common Council reflect a 5-district plan. There is a gap in the documents, so it is possible that there was a last minute switch, but I am dubious.

    The 6-district plan may have been conceptual. An interesting feature is that it excluded the prison population. In 2000, the prison would have represented about 40% of whichever equal-population district it was placed in.

    1. The plan proposed in 2003 actually did divide the city into six wards, and I have posted that map several times. It can be found in this post:

  3. At the meeting of the Legal Committee, Alderman Sarah Sterling complained about the balance of political power on the proposed redistricting commission. State law requires that "[the plan for local government organization] plan shall provide substantially fair and effective representation for the people of the local government as organized in political parties."

    The problem with the Arizona redistricting commission was that it was a 5-member body, with one supposed independent, that made all its decisions on a 3:2 party line vote.

    A better system would require concurrent majorities for approval of any plan.

    A possible problem with weighted voting systems is that they may deny voters of more populous wards from effective representation on committees, where weighted voting is not used.

    For example, in Hudson, the voters of Ward 5 should legitimately have two aldermen on most committees. But that would a problem because then both aldermen from Ward 5 would be assigned to almost every committee. And aldermen from wards 1 and 4 would be limited to serving on about half the committees.

    If Hudson keeps weighted voting and the current wards, it should look to including an apportionment component, Wards 1 and Wards 4 would have a single alderman (who would have about twice the voting weight they currently do), and Ward 5 would have 4 aldermen who would each have roughly half the voting weight they currently do.

  4. There is no record of a 6-district plan being considered or voted on in 2003.

    If you read the Common Council minutes for 2002: April 16; May 21; October 15; November 19; and December 17; and 2003: February 25; March 18; April 15; May 20; and June 17; you will find various items related to modifying the weighted votes, or switching to equal-population districts.

    At its April 15, 2003 the Common Council approved Resolution 2003-3A which switched to five equal population districts. At the May 20, 2003 meeting the matter was placed on the November 2003 ballot (it was subject to mandatory referendum).

    The minutes for August 19, 2003 appear to have been garbled, and if there was a September meeting, its minutes are not on the city web site. So it is conceivable that there was a last minute switch to a 6-district plan, but I am skeptical.