On October 17, the Township hosted a public meeting/open house for the public to view and comment on the various maps. Much to the surprise of many of the attendees, there was no presentation or Q&A session. There were a bunch of maps taped to the walls and comment forms provided to residents to fill in their thoughts. Also of interest, despite the strong public interest, only ONE Council member bothered to show up at this session! The Council member who managed to show was the same Council member who drew the initial redistricting plan - Mr. Else - and he was unreceptive to residents who challenged the substantial disruption that his plans created. Mr. Else told residents, the way he views things:
Disruption is irrelevant and is not/should not be a consideration when drawing district maps
The most important consideration for redistricting is a measure of 'compactness' [more on that measure below], though there is no target compactness score
Although he modified his initial proposal, specifically to accommodate Councilmember Peterson, so as not to place her in a new district (as his initial plan did) Mr. Else claims that doing so was not gerrymandering (despite the fact that this action is the definition of gerrymandering)
In other words, Mr. Else defined and made up the rules of how redistricting should be completed as he went along and as they suited his personal goals. This is why we need an unbiased, independent citizen committee to draw district map options - a process which UPT Council endorsed in February of 2020!!
Compactness - what is it and why does it matter?
In redistricting, compactness is defined as having the minimum distance between all the parts of a constituency. In other words, the aim is to have districts as 'tight' as possible. There are numerous ways to measure compactness and no one methodology has been deemed to be 'the best' by the experts or the Courts. In other words, which compactness measurement approach to use is subjective and up for debate. Some of the more common approaches include:
Polygon Area Test compares the areas of each district. The area is reported in square miles.
Perimeter calculates the perimeter of the district, including inner holes. The perimeter is reported in miles.
Reock Test is an area-based measure that compares each district to a circle, which is considered to be the most compact shape possible.
Area / Convex Hull Test determines the ratio of the area of the district to the convex hull area of the district.
Grofman Test calculates the ratio of the district perimeter to the square root of the area.
Schwartzberg Test is the ratio of the perimeter of the district to the perimeter of a circle of an equal area to that of the district.
Polsby Popper Test is a measure of the ratio of the district area to the area of a circle with the same perimeter.
Holes determines the number of holes (geography clusters that are fully enclosed) within each district.
Ehrenburg – computes the ratio of the largest inscribed circle divided by the area of the district
For the UPT compactness calculations, Mr. Else selected the Polsby-Popper test as the proxy for compactness. Had the perimeter test been used, results would have been substantially different, given that the full perimeter of District 3 measures over 10 miles, compared to that of District 4, which measures less than 1/2 mile.
Which compactness measurement approach is the most appropriate for Upper Providence Township redistricting efforts? How much weight should compactness scores factor into determining which plan is the best? How much weight should disruption be given? How much weight should other factors be given? These questions were never offered up for public input. Instead, a sitting Council member who is up for reelection, answered all of these questions on his own, with his own biases, as he created the initial redistricting plan (which all of the Township-created plans are based upon). This is why we need an unbiased, independent citizen committee to draw district map options!!