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Pierce County Districting Master Steven Garrett explains numerical error that nearly scuttled adoption of final map

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on July 13, 2011 at 8:41 am |
July 13, 2011 9:36 am

Gig Harbor resident Walker Allen was the first one to notice it. In the population numbers listed on the final proposed map, by Pierce Districting Committee Master Steven Garrett, two districts had the exact same population. District 2 and District 3 both showed 115,612 people.

Given how difficult it is to get the seven proposed council districts close to even, the fact that two had come in on the button caught Allen’s eye. So he went back to earlier maps and earlier population totals and found an error – the final map had 1,417 more people in the county than the Census reported.

County Republicans who were opposed to the final map used that fact, along with many others, to argue that the committee should not adopt the final map, sometimes called Map E. Republican committee member Deryl McCarty said the committee needed to delay action to identify the error. That, itself, caused consternation among the staff and other committee members because the charter says the map must be adopted by midnight tonight (Wednesday) and open meetings law requires a 24 hour notice.

“We have a map in error,” McCarty said. “Something is in there to create people.”

 

Garrett had no explanation Tuesday evening, saying his GIS software loads Census precinct data automatically. He did not think it would change the population variances between districts significantly – only 1 percent plus or minus.

McCarty’s motion to table an earlier motion to adopt the final map failed 3-2 with Chairwoman Karen Seinfeld and the two Democratic appointees voting no. The same committee members then adopted the final map, drawing some jeers from those in the audience. Steve Maynard has the story here.

(Here is a pdf of the final map.)

Here is Garrett’s explanation, sent via e-mail at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday;

I do not know how this happened, but for some reason on the final map that I submitted on June 28th (along with the final report), District 3 shows that it has 115,612 people. That number is incorrect. I do not know how that number got changed in the spreadsheet before I copied it onto the map, but when I opened up the Final Map in ArcGIS, the number is actually 114,195; explaining the 1,417 differential. The corrected spreadsheet, as outputted from that map and formatted in Excel, is attached.

The district boundaries that I provided in the Final Report are correct, as are the census block designations that I provided in my final report in the file called “Pierce Districts Final Plan.” The discrepancy was only on the map (which for reference purposes only), and thus the Districting Committee did indeed vote on an error free districting plan.

I deeply apologize for this error. This is profoundly embarrassing, which is why I am checking these figures are 4:30 am.
Steven

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