To: Election Law Committee
From: Rep. Jerry Knirk
Re: HB 320
Date: Feb 5, 2017
Thank you for your attention during the math lesson last Wednesday.
There were some concerns that were raised during the hearing which I would like to address.
There was a concern about being sure that the algorithm did not have bugs. It is important to realize that any good software developer will thoroughly test their algorithms before using them. My eldest brother worked for years as a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia Labs, a laboratory of the Department of Energy, where his job was testing to guarantee the reliability of the algorithms and software which keep nuclear weapons from detonating at the wrong time--not much room for bugs there. There are ways to test algorithms and software to be sure that they do the job intended. Indeed a reasonable option would be to initially test the algorithm using the 2010 census data to be sure that it's working well before doing the process with the 2020 census data.
Another concern was raised that there may not be one perfect answer and the example of UPS carrier routes was used stating that there might still be a 4% variance from the optimum answer. We currently have a flawed system and 4% would be a great improvement.
A concern was raised regarding the word “except” line 23 on the first page. What this states is that usage of any demographic data other than the population count is prohibited. The word "except" is there simply to state that we must be in compliance with the Constitution and federal law.
Another concern that was raised was the question of hacking the program. This is not a program that needs to be on a computer which is even connected to the Internet. Once the program has been reviewed by interested parties it can be locked down in a computer which is not connected to the internet and therefore not accessible to be hacked.
Outside of the hearing, a concern was raised to me that using a computer algorithm would slow down the process of getting the plan to the legislature to approve. Nothing could be further from the truth. The bill calls for the contractor to be chosen and the algorithm and software to be developed and reviewed by interested parties during the year of the census. It would therefore be completed and ready to go before the census data is available. Then one only needs to insert the census data into the program and let it run. It would be far faster than the process which is currently used in which the majority party manipulates the redistricting for political gain as that takes time. The use of an algorithm will actually speed up the process.
Thank you for your time in reading this. I know this is a rather interesting paradigm shift. As I stated in my testimony, the committee may feel more comfortable referring this for interim study to tighten up any problems with language. I would however urge that we proceed with this bill during this session. The closer we get to 2021, the less likely that parties will be willing to come to the table and work together.
FIGURE 2 NH Senate