Redistricting in Alaska

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Redistricting in Alaska
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General information
Partisan control:  Alaska
Process:  Alaska Redistricting Board
Deadline:  End of 2011-2012 Session
Total seats
Congress:  1
State Senate:  20
State House:  40
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See also
Redistricting on Policypedia
State legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 Census
State-by-state redistricting procedures
This page is about redistricting in Alaska.

The Alaska's population grew at its slowest rate in 80 years, according to 2010 census figures. Alaska's one member in the U.S. House of Representatives will represent 710,231 people. Don Young (R) has been the Alaska representative for 28 years.[1]

Process

The Alaska Redistricting Board is responsible for redistricting. Alaska is one of 9 states that appoint a commission carry out redistricting. Alaska's redistricting commission is comprised of 5 members, chosen by the following:

  • 2 by the Governor
  • 1 Appointed by the Senate president
  • 1 Appointed by the House Speaker
  • 1 Appointed by the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court

Note: Alaska is one of nine states which require federal approval of redistricting plans as mandated by the Voting Rights Act.

Leadership

2011

In October 2010, the Alaska Redistricting Board hired Ron Miller to serve as its executive director and provide direction to the board. However, Miller passed away on May 8, 2011 due to a heart attack. He is survived by his wife and two children. Miller was 65. The board hired Taylor Bickford as its new executive director.[2]

According to Board Chairman Torgerson, "The State Constitution mandates we adopt one or more proposed redistricting plans within thirty (30) days of receiving the census data from the federal government. We will get the data no later than April 1 of next year and we must have a final plan within ninety (90) days of receipt of the data. Before then we need to get a small staff together, along with independent counsel and other experts, train staff and Board members in the redistricting software and finish setting up the Board's office in Anchorage, so we need Ron to get started right away."[3]

In early January, the official state redistricting site was launched.[4] Included on the site is an event calendar, contact information, board updates and a form to join the board’s email list.[5] Once the local census population data is released, the Alaska Redistricting Board will have 30 days to complete its map drawing process. The census data must be delivered by April 1, 2011.[6]

In late February, Albert Clough resigned from the Redistricting Board after taking a position with the state Department of Transportation. Gov. Sean Parnell has appointed PeggyAnn McConnochie to replace Clough.[7]

Redistricting board members

The five members of the 2011 Redistricting Board are:[8]

  • Robert Brodie (appointed by Senate President)
  • PeggyAnn McConnochie, Vice Chairman (appointed by governor)
  • Jim Holm (appointed by House speaker)
  • Marie Greene (appointed by Chief Justice)
  • John Torgerson, Chairman (appointed by governor)

Schedule of public meetings

The Alaska Redistricting Board held a series of public hearings throughout its work on legislative redistricting. The official schedule can be found here.

Final board meetings streamed live

The Alaska Redistricting Board streamed audio from its final meetings, May 23 - June 4. The live audio stream can be found at alaskalegislature.tv during meeting hours. The May 24 meeting has been set aside for the discussion of Alaska Native districts and the Voting Rights Act. Meeting details can be found on the Board's full calendar.[9]

Census results

2010 Census

Census data showed slowing growth for Alaska in the past decade. While the state showed the 15th highest growth rate in the nation, 13.3%, this was the lowest growth rate for the state in 80 years, and much of that growth was homegrown. The state showed a net loss to emigration. Overall, the state Alaska will retain its single congressional seat.[10]

Local Data

Figure 1: This map illustrates the shifts in Alaska population.

On March 14, the state redistricting board received Alaska's local census data. This data will guide mapmakers as they redraw state legislative districts.[11] According to earlier Department of Labor estimates, Southeast and rural Alaska will be the hardest hit. The greatest increases will likely be in the Matanuska-Susitna area. Fairbanks will also likely see an increase in representation. Both central Kenai Peninsula districts will probably remain close to their current populations.[12][13]

Legislative maps

Process begins with public meeting

The redistricting board held a public meeting on Wednesday, March 16, officially beginning the work of legislative redistricting. The board took comments from the public by teleconference before beginning the meeting. Democratic attendees expressed distrust of the GOP controlled process and questioned whether the Republican party chairman was having an influence on redistricting through "back door" meetings. The panel members called the suggestions hasty since data had only just been received, and they further denied private meetings with the GOP chair.[14]

Juneau representation

According to estimates, the city of Juneau grew at a slower rate than the rest of the state. Census population figures set ideal state senate and house districts at 17,755 and 35,510, respectively. For this reason, Juneau's 30,661 residents are insufficient to maintain its two house seats and one senate seat. Thus, Juneau's districts will require 5,000 additional voters from surrounding districts.[15]

The City of Juneau and its surrounding borough submitted two maps to the Alaska Redistricting Board to guide the board as it redraws political lines in the Southeast. Details of the plans can be found here.

Deadline looms for Redistricting Board

The Alaska Redistricting Board must have preliminary maps drawn by April 14, 2011. In the run-up to the plan's release there will be several public meeting and work sessions. The schedule for these meetings can be found here.

Board releases preliminary redistricting plan

On April 13, 2011, the Alaska Redistricting Board released its preliminary redistricting maps for the Alaska State Legislature. The board released two distinct plans along with several regional alternatives, presenting different options for redistricting. While details of the plan are tentative, each senate district will continue to be composed of exactly two house districts.[16] Indeed, at least one controversy surrounding the plans is which house districts ought to be paired together. For example, some argue that the plans, which pair Ketchikan with either Kodiak or Valdez, ignore the lack of shared community interests in the districts. As expected, the plans reduces representation in the state's Southeast.[17]

Others are concerned that the plans split some Native Alaskan lands and combine Anchorage and Fairbanks suburbs with rural districts.[18][19] Still others are concerned about the the splitting the so-called "Senate Loop" and the pairing of State Senators Joe Thomas (D) and John B. Coghill (R).[20]

Due to a pairing of Republican senators near Anchorage, the Chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, Randy Ruedrich, called the plan "troubling at best" and anti-incumbent.[21] In addition, the left-leaning Alaskans for Fair Redistricting charged that the plan deliberates pairs incumbents through small adjustments to legislative boundary, a tactic the group call gerrymandering. However, Ron Miller, late executive director of the board, argues that the locations of legislator residences were not a factor in drawing the new maps. Overall, plan is thought to benefit Republican interests.[22]

The Alaska Redistricting Board held several hearings to gather public input on the new plans, concluding with a statewide teleconference on May 6, 2010.[23] The board now begins work on the final plans. The board's full schedule can be found here.

 Alaska Redistricting: Preliminary Redistricting Plan[24] 
 Note: Numbers denote house districts, and letters denote senate pairings. 

Anchorage board controversy

Achorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and Anchorage Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander have submitted proposals to the Alaska Redistricting Board intended to guide the state's redistricting of the area. However, at least two Assembly members have expressed anger over the submission of the plans. Elvi Gray-Jackson and Harriet Drummond claim that the submissions do not reflect the consensus of the non-partisan Assembly and instead represent Republican partisan interests. The plans, which appears similar to those proposed by the Republican group, Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, would pair several incumbents. However, Republican Party of Alaska Chair Randy Ruedrich argues that the plans are not partisan but intended to restore political boundaries to their earlier positions. Mayor Sullivan further argued that the plan better matches the geography and local political boundaries of Anchorage. Ossiander apologized, saying that while she identified herself as chair, she did not claim that her submission was the Assembly's official position.[25][26]

Redistricting Board adopts plans for Southeast

The Alaska Redistricting Board has adopted plans for the state's Southeast. As several leaders in the area had requested, the plan places two Senate districts in the Southeast. House districts, however, are less in keeping with local requests. The plan pairs downtown Juneau and Petersburg. In addition, Skagway is paired with some northern Juneau neighborhoods, and Prince of Wales Island lies in two House districts.[27] Redistricting board member Peggy Ann McConnochie argued that the pairings reflect similar local interests in the fishing and cruise industry.[28]

The plan pairs 4 state representatives in 2 districts. Kyle Johansen (R) and Peggy Wilson (R) will be paired in one district, and Bert Stedman (R) and Albert Kookesh (D) will be paired in another.[29][30][31] The plan also creates a minority influence district in House District 2, with a 37% native population. Although Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho (D) argued that the maps appear to follow constitutional principles, he still expects litigation over the final plan. The plans are not final until the full state plan is adopted.[28]

  • A map of the Southeast plan can be found here. (Large image, allow time for loading)

Redistricting adopts statewide plan

The Alaska Redistricting Board has adopted statewide redistricting plans. The plan removes a house seat from the Southeast and adds one in Mat-Su. In order to comply with the provisions of the Voting Rights Act and create a native-influence district, the plan creates a sprawling Senate district which includes Cordova, Dillingham, and Kodiak. The district ranges from the Yukon-Kuskoskwim Delta to Yakutat.[32] The plan also splits the Aleutian Islands into different house districts, a move ruled unconstitutional by the Alaska Supreme Court in 1992. In total, the plan creates six House districts and six Senate districts where Native representatives stand a good chance of being elected. Given population shifts, these districts are largely rural.[33]

Democrats have criticized the plan, which may jeopardize the 10-10 partisan tie in the Alaska Senate. Democrats contend that the new plan could hurt the re-election chances of several Democratic lawmakers, including Bettye Davis, Bill Wielechowski, Joe Paskvan, and Joe Thomas. However, Alaska GOP Chairman Randy Ruedrich argued that maps were fair. Ruedrich noted that the plan only pairs 5 sets of incumbents, with similar numbers of Republican and Democratic legislators affected.[33]

In addition, the plan significantly re-numbers/re-letters the state's legislative districts, beginning in Fairbanks rather than Ketchikan.[34] In addition, every senator except Dennis Egan (D) will face re-election in 2012 due to substantial changes in their constituency. Senators scheduled for the 2014 election will be elected to two-year terms in 2012, preserving the Alaska's staggered Senate elections.[35] The final plan and legal documentation were officially completed on June 14, 2011.

 Alaska Redistricting: Statewide Redistricting Plan[36] 
 Note: Numbers denote house districts, and letters denote senate pairings. 

Citizen Activism

Groups formed to influence redistricting

Two groups, Alaskans for Fair Redistricting and Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, have been formed to influence state redistricting. Both plan to submit maps to the Redistricting Board. The former is a left-leaning coalition, including unions, Native corporations, the Alaska Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, and the YWCA. The latter is a conservative group formed by the Alaska Republican party and interested businesses.[37]

Interest groups release maps

The Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting and Alaskans for Fair Redistricting have both released maps to the Redistricting Board for consideration. AFFR has released their map on their website. AFFER has also released maps on their website. These and other public map proposals can also be found on the Alaska Redistricting Board homepage.

Native representation

The Alaska Federation of Natives has speculated that increased cost of living has caused an influx of Alaska residents to cities and towns. This, argues the group's co-chair Albert Kookesh (D), could lead to decreased representation for native and rural Alaskans. He also expressed concerns that the Redistricting Board contained no Democrats and only one native.[38] Kookesh has speculated that his own seat may be lost to redistricting.[39]

Timeline

Preliminary plans are due 30 days after local census data is received by the state, and final plans are due 90 days after receipt. Litigation contesting the plan must be filed within 30 days of the final plan in the Alaska Superior Court. The redistricting timeline for Alaska is as follows:[40]

Alaska 2010 Redistricting Timeline
Date Action
April 1, 2010 U.S. Census
August, 2010 Alaska Redistricting Board Appointed
March 14, 2011 U.S. Census Releases Alaska Local Redistricting Data
April 14, 2011 Preliminary Plan Due
June 14, 2011 Final Plan Due
July 14, 2011 Litigation Deadline

Partisan Registration by District

Alaska's One Congressional District in November 2010 [41]

Partisan Registration and Representation by Congressional District, 2010
Congressional District Democrats Republicans Unaffiliated District Total Party Advantage* 111th Congress 112th Congress
1 74,644 129,810 290,816 495,270 73.9% Republican
State Totals 74,644 129,810 290,816 495,270 73.9% Republican 1 R 1 R
*The partisan registration advantage was computed as the gap between the two major parties in registered voters.

History

2001 Redistricting

As one of seven states with an at-large Congressional District, Alaska's redistricting issues were always primarily focused on state legislative seats. When, in May of 2001, the Redistricting Board released its plans, two dissenting members released their report that frankly criticized the majority plan. One dissent cited that fact that several Republicans had been primed to be faced off against one another but no Democrats were cast in a similar position. The 30-day period for any Alaskan to file a challenge was enough time to birth nine lawsuits, all of which were consolidated into one case at the end of August 2011.

That lawsuit got a boost a week later, when the Republican-dominated legislature voted to join the lawsuit, again citing the allegation that the redistricting map unfairly made members of the GOP but not Democrats compete against fellow elected party members for seats. The lawsuit was set for January 2002. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice pre-cleared the already drawn redistricting map in early October, meaning the new boundaries legally took effect pending the outcome of the trial. Days later, a Superior Court judge allowed the state legislature to remain party to the consolidated lawsuit although they had technically missed the deadline to file as a plaintiff.

As the trial date neared and the Redistricting Board, facing the bill for the lawsuit, began to compute expected costs, a new worry arose. If the trial used up the funds allotted for redistricting, the Board would be legally required to petition the legislature for more money, but the legislature was already party to lawsuit, opposing the Redistricting Board. Ultimately, the Board voted to advance $300,000 to the law firm representing them, an amount they claimed wiped out everything they had left to cover the entire redistricting process.

A secondary concerned centered around Kevin Jardell, chief of staff to then-member of the Alaska House of Representatives Joe Green. Having failed in a bid to be named executive of the Redistricting Board, Mr. Jardell retained his staff position and, on behalf of Representative Green, sat in on at least 15 meetings of the Redistricting Board. Agreeing with Republican lawmakers that the Board's plan was biased, Mr. Jardell privately prepared his suggested map and presented it to the Board. In that capacity, he was working for the lawfirm representing the state legislature and the later body attested that Jardell was on unpaid leave when he worked on his own plan. Nonetheless, Jardell was subpoenaed and, on Rep. Green's request, legislative attorney's filed a motion to quash the subpoena and shield Jardell from future attempts to question him. Local editorial boards howled over the idea that Jardell was defended for work he had ostensibly undertaken as a private citizens by the legislature's staff attorneys, who drew a salary from the public treasury.

Around the same time, court employees were working through the objections and challenges filed against the approaching trial in a bid to minimize the complexity and time of the case. One significant challenge came from military personnel stationed in Anchorage, who been consolidated into one District. They claimed such an action diluted their political effectiveness and, by minimizing the number of civilians, in the District, lowered the pool of potential candidates so much as to infringe on their rights. Led by Paul Volland, chief attorney for the Redistricting Board, that challenge was thrown out. A mirror image of that complaint came from Little Delta Junction, a remote and tiny town by Alaskan standards. Residents claimed that, having been put into two Districts under the 2001 plan, what little legislative influence they had was wiped out. That complaint also was thrown out.[42]

Republicans won a few victories of their own shortly thereafter when Anchorage Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner, who also presided over the military base and Delta Junction hearings, ruled that the Chugiak District violated the compactness requirement and that District 16, around Peter's Creek and the Eagle River, violated a requirement to respect socioeconomic similarities. Nearly as soon as pretrial motions were settled, Judge Rindner again sat, this time presiding over the combined case challenging the Redistricting Board's 3-2 decision.

Over the trial's course, legislators testified that newly combined areas were, in fact, too disparate for one person to effectively represent and, on the ninth day, a member of the Redistricting Board admitted a lawmaker had pressured her to vote against the plan. Three weeks and 63 witnesses later, on February 2, 2002, Rindner upheld the plan with only two exceptions, where he agreed with Republicans on their earlier complaints about the Chugiak and Eagle River Districts. However, the Judge stayed his order pending the Alaska Supreme Court's ruling.[43]

On March 22, 2002, the Supreme Court went much further. 22 of 40 House seats, including all 17 in Anchorage, and 12 of 20 Senate seats, were sent back to the Redistricting Board to be redrawn. Republicans were thrilled with the holding and the Redistricting Board set a May 2002 hearing to begin reworking the Districts. However, they reported only $38,000 on hand, meaning it needed more money from the legislature. Ultimately, a supplemental spending bill gave the Board $50,000 for redrawing boundaries, a far cry from the $454,000 that had been requested, and an amount that allowed nothing for $200,000 in unpaid legal bills.

On April 14, 2002, the Board drew a new map and voted to pass it on unanimously. Sparing Alaska a second round of legalistic bickering, the Supreme Court dismissed all challenges to the new map on May 28, 2002.

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[44]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts N/A
State House Districts 9.96%
State Senate Districts 9.32%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Lawsuits related to the 2000 Census

A single case came out of the 2001 redistricting process, and progressed through the Supreme Court and Redistricting Board on its way to resolution.[45]

  • In re 2001 Redistricting Cases v. Redistricting Board, No. 3AN-01-8914CI (3rd Dist. Anchorage, Feb. 1, 2002) : Of Alaska's 40 House districts, a judge found two of them to be Unconstitutional. One was faulted for failing to be sufficiently compact. THe second was a more complex matter, not meeting the requirement in article 6, § 6 that districts be "as nearly as practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area.” Pending appeal to Alaska's Supreme Court, the ruling was stayed.
  • In re 2001 Redistricting Cases, No. S-10504, 44 P.3d 141 (Alaska Mar. 21, 2002) : The Supreme Court vacated to lower Court's stay, affirming the decision with exceptions. The case was remanded to the superior court with instructions that it be further remanded to the Redistricting Board. Overall, the Supreme Court found two districts violated compactness, two violated § 6, a further 16 violated the equal rights guarantee, a level that occurred because Alaska's state Constitution requires a higher standard than Federal law. Lastly, the court found a 6.9% deviation from an ideal district was not justified under the Voting Rights Act.
  • In re 2001 Redistricting Cases, No. S-10615, 47 P.3d 1089 (Alaska May 24, 2002) : The Redistricting Board followed the Supreme Court's instructions and submitted an Amended Final Plan to the superior court. On May 9, 2002, the latter approved the plan and the Supreme Court affirmed the decision.

Ballot measures

The following measures have appeared on the Alaska ballot pertaining to redistricting.

Constitutional explanation

Figure 2: This map shows the Alaska Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

With respect to redistricting, the Alaska Constitution provides authority for a redistricting commission in Article VI. All 11 sections of Article VI were altered by the Alaska Reapportionment Board Act (1998).

See also

External links

References

  1. Alaska Dispatch "2010 census: Alaska’s population growth continues to slow," January 2, 2011
  2. Alaska Dispatch, "Redistricting Board chooses Bickford to replace Miller as director," May 17, 2011
  3. Alaska Business Monthly "Alaska Redistricting Board Announces Executive Director Hire," October 25, 2010
  4. Anchorage Daily News "Alaska Redistricting Board launches website," January 21, 2011
  5. Juneau Empire "Alaska Redistricting Board launches website," January 23, 2011
  6. Fairbanks Daily News Miner "Redistricting nears," January 28, 2011
  7. Anchorage Daily News, "Redistricting board member resigns," February 23, 2011
  8. Alaska Redistricting Board Roster
  9. The Arctic Sounder, "Meeting Tuesday on Alaska Native legislative districts," May 23, 2011
  10. Alaska Dispatch "2010 census: Alaska’s population growth continues to slow," January 2, 2011
  11. US Census Bureau, "Census Bureau Ships Local 2010 Census Data to Alaska," March 14, 2010
  12. Homer News, "State's redistricting board waits for data to begin its work," March 9, 2011
  13. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "New map will revamp Alaska state House districts," April 14, 2011
  14. Alaska Dispatch, "Alaska redistricting board gets to work, " March 16, 2011
  15. Juneau Empire, "A reverse population bomb," February 08, 2011
  16. Alaska Dispatch, "Alaska redistricting plan offers 2 regional alternatives," April 13, 2011
  17. KSTK, "Redistricting plans reduce Southeast's clout," April 4, 2011
  18. HomerNews, "Redistricting plans need some work," April 20, 2011
  19. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "Redistricting board gets earful on new state House boundaries," April 20, 2011
  20. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "Redistricting director says map was not designed to target Thomas," April 30, 2011
  21. Alaska Dispatch, "Redistricting board gets an earful in Anchorage," April 19, 2011
  22. Alaska Dispatch, "Alaska's puzzling redistricting proposals," May 06, 2011
  23. KTUU.com, "Re-Districting Board Releases Draft Plan," April 14, 2011
  24. Alaska Redistricting Board Website
  25. KTUU, "Two Assembly Members: Anchorage's Redistricting Proposal is Unfair," May 11, 2011
  26. Anchorage Daily News, "Assembly redistricting tiff surfaces," May 10, 2011
  27. KFSK, "New Southeast redistricting plan released," June 1, 2011
  28. 28.0 28.1 Juneau Empire, "Redistricting board links Skagway, Petersburg to downtown Juneau," June 1, 2011
  29. Juneau Empire, "Redistricting board sets stage for Senate clash," June 4, 2011
  30. Juneau Empire, "Redistricting board adopts Senate pairings," June 6, 2010
  31. KCAW FM, "Redistricting plan sets up election battles," June 1, 2011
  32. Anchorage Daily News, "Panel approves new district boundaries for Legislature," June 6, 2011
  33. 33.0 33.1 Anchorage Daily News, "Democrats blast board's redistricting proposal," June 8, 2011
  34. KSTK, "Board relabels House and Senate districts," June 8, 2011
  35. Anchorage Daily News, "New legislative map forces early elections for senators," June 13, 2011
  36. Alaska Redistricting Board Website
  37. Anchorage Press, "The mapmakers," March 30, 2011
  38. Juneau Empire, "AFN officials bring concerns to lawmakers," February 11, 2011
  39. KFSK, "Rural senator airs redistricting concerns," February 11, 2011
  40. Alaska Constitution, Article 6, Legislative Apportionment
  41. Alaska Official Voter Registration Counts
  42. Fairvote Archive, "Alaska's Redistricting News: (June 19, 2001 - January 17, 2002)", accessed January 31, 2011
  43. Fairvote Archive, "Alaska's Redistricting News", accessed January 31, 2011
  44. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”, accessed February 1, 2011
  45. Minnesota State Senate "2000 Redistricting Case Summaries"