Sunday, January 30, 2022

Responding to the Decennial Census

Once upon a time in Hudson, changes in the population of the wards triggered changes in the weighted votes of members of the Common Council. This happened back in February 2013, after the 2010 census. The population figures for the wards, which were configured differently back then, were sent to Professor Lee Papayanopoulous at Rutgers University, who, as he had for decades, analyzed the numbers and recommended weighted voting schemes that would achieve the constitutional principle of "one person, one vote."

In 2016, the people of Hudson voted in a
 referendum to change the ward boundaries to create five wards of equal population. Prior to that, the configuration of the wards had not changed since 1886, when the Fifth Ward came into being. 

Now, with the 2020 census numbers in, the population figures for the five wards are different. When the new boundaries were adopted in 2017, the difference in population between the wards with the greatest numbers (Second and Third) were no more than 24 higher than the ward with the lowest number (Fifth). In the 2020 census, some wards gained population, others lost, and now the difference in population between the ward with largest population (First) and one with the smallest (Fifth) is 136. 

The ideal number for each ward, if the total population of the city were to be divided evenly by 5, would be 1,162. 
It appears that the ward boundaries will have to be adjusted to achieve the goal of equal population in each ward. According to Steve Dunn, who played a major role in calculating the ward boundaries adopted in 2017, "Hudson under both its law and the US Constitution as interpreted by the US Supreme Court must redistrict in the event the population deviation between the wards exceeds 10%." It seems we have achieved that level of deviation, and redistricting is in order.

Dunn posted his entire analysis on Facebook, and it can be found here. Dunn, who never shies away from diving into a rabbit hole of numbers and possibilities, created a few maps to show possible adjustments that can be made to achieve five wards of equal population. Gossips will simplify things by sharing just three. In the map that Dunn describes as the one with the "least change," the south side of upper Warren Street, from about Park Place to Worth Avenue, moves from the First Ward into the Third Ward, the east side of the stretch of Harry Howard Avenue that is now in the Fourth Ward moves to the Fifth Ward, and the little section off State Street, defined by Dodge Street and Rope Alley, which is now in the Third Ward, moves to the Fourth Ward.  

In the map Dunn describes as the one with "less deviation," a bit more of the area on the north side of State Street between Fifth and Sixth streets moves from the Third Ward to the Fifth Ward.

Dunn also offers another map that includes both parts of Hudson Terrace, no
rth and south of Promenade Hill, in the Second Ward. 

Of this map, Dunn comments:
. . .  I drew a 4th map that unites the Hudson Terrace Apartments in the 2nd ward, an approach that had its advocates in the 2017 redraw, but was not practicable at the time. With the 2020 census numbers, it turns out that the Hudson Terrace Apartments can more easily be united into the 2nd ward, with the 2nd ward giving up in exchange the two census blocks adjacent to Warren St between 1st and 3rd streets, that without any further changes other than eliminating the split census block along Harry Howard Blvd, also gets the population deviation down below 10%.
This solution does not seem practicable this time either, although for different reasons. Claire Cousin, who is now the county supervisor for the First Ward, lives in the southern part of Hudson Terrace, which would become part of the Second Ward in this scheme for redistricting.

Dunn has labeled all his maps "Hudson ward map 2023," which is the local election year in which the new boundaries would take effect. According to the city charter, though, this redistricting needs to be done this year, in the next five months. The following in quoted from § C1-4:
If after any decennial federal census, the population of the wards is not in compliance with the law, the Common Council by not later than July 1 of each year ending in "2" shall reapportion the wards and change their boundaries in order to cause their respective populations to be in conformance with the law.
It seems the Common Council needs to act on this soon. 

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