Alaska Legislature Increase Amendment, Ballot Measure 1 (2010)
The measure would have added four more representatives and two more senators to the Alaska Legislature, which stood at 60. The measure was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 23, 2010, offering the panel's version of the amendment. The measure was sponsored by the Community & Regional Affairs Committee. The measure was introduced by Representative Peggy Wilson.
The measure, according to supporters, was proposed in order to help alleviate the difficulty of redistricting. Supporters said that rural districts' boundaries were expected to increase, but with those populations being spread out among that district, more representation was being proposed to try to help add a voice to those areas. The original proposal was to expand by 12 seats, but was then reduced to adding six in order to gain legislative support. Opponents are arguing that voters do not want to expand their government at a time of political skepticism.
|Alaska Measure 1 (2010)|
Election results via: Alaska Elections Division
Text of amendment
The ballot title of the measure read:
|“||This Act would amend the Alaska Constitution to increase the number of state legislators from 60 to 66. The Act would increase the number of senate members from 20 to 22. It would increase the number of house members from 40 to 44. Six new legislative districts would be created as a result – 4 in the House and 2 in the Senate. The changes proposed by the Act would go into effect on or after January 1, 2011, after a new redistricting plan based on the 2010 U.S. Census is adopted.
- See also: Fiscal impact statement
Reports claimed that if the measure is enacted by voters, approximately $4 million would be used in the first year to accommodate the expanding legislature. The $4 million would be used to renovate the legislative building in order to make room for new lawmakers and staff.
Supporters of the measure included:
- The main group that formed in support of the measure was Progress Alaska. Member Gloria O'Neill stated at the time that the measure should be passed due to a shift in population in Alaska. According to O'Neill, "We'll see after the census is released how much our state has really grown and we'll also see that the population has shifted dramatically...Some of the districts are so large and unwieldy that it’s very difficult to ensure that you have that collective voice in Juneau when representing people.”
- The Bush caucus, which was comprise of 16 members from the Alaska Legislature, stated support for the measure. The caucus was made up of rural lawmakers, who were most worried about redistricting, which they said would pave the way for the loss of representative in specific areas of the state.
- Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, who was also the state's attorney general, urged a 'yes' vote on the issue, stating, " Ballot Measure 1 will not improve the current disparity, but it will prevent the condition from getting worse. The challenge of representing rural Alaskans in far-flung districts is already Herculean. All Alaskans have a stake in making sure that effective representation for every corner of this state is not further diminished."
- Representative Peggy Wilson and Representative Reggie Joule were supporters of the measure.
- United States Senator Lisa Murkowski asked Alaska Federation of Natives delegates on October 21, 2010 to support the ballot measure. Murkowski stated, "We need 100 percent Alaska Native participation in the upcoming election to lift ballot Measure 1 to passage."
- The Alaska Federation of Natives came out as officially backing the measure.
The following were arguments that were made in favor of the measure:
- As rural districts grow due to redistricting, it would be harder to communicate with that district due to a spread out population in that area. Rural districts would lose their voice in terms of government representation if more legislators were not added, supporters said.
- According to Reggie Joule, "If we do not take this action, the voices that are here from the far flung parts of the state where we have very small populations will be diminished."
- Peggy Wilson stated that even though some areas would lose representation, it would be minimized by the passage of this measure.
- Ward Sattler, who was a candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives, District 6, argued about the large districts in the state, “People can’t believe it, that somebody from (almost) 500 miles away can be in the same election district. I don’t think there’s a wide understanding of just how huge District 6 is.”
- Representative Reggie Joule stated that some of the communities in his district were not connected by roads. Joule stated that representation was difficult given the budget each lawmaker is given. Legislators were given the same office budget, no matter whether or not they represent rural or urban areas. Joule stated, "About the only time we get to our communities is during a campaign season. We’ve made the argument in more ways than one about the inequity in costs between urban and rural areas, and that’s one of the areas that still need work.”
- Former House Speaker Mike Bradner explained what State Senator Albert Kookesh had to do to visit constituents in his large district: "To visit some of his constituents Sen. Kookesh must fly from his home in Angoon, in Southeast Alaska, to Anchorage via Juneau, overnight in Anchorage, then fly to Bethel or McGrath, and then fly by bush plane to villages in the Yukon and Kuskokwim delta that are in his district."
- Election districts had changed since Alaska became a state 50 years ago, and the population tripled since then.
- Redistricting process occurred every ten years, and legislative districts were redrawn based on current census figures.
- Since populations in rural areas dropped, at least two House districts were in danger of disappearing, while seats in urban areas would increase.
- In 2000, each legislative district had about 15,600 citizens. Districts in rural areas had to span hundreds of miles to cover many other communities to reach this number.
- The new number in 2012 for each district was predicted to be 17,500 citizens. To reach this number, according to reports at the time, at least two rural districts could be swallowed up by other districts and no longer exist.
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was designed so that as populations grow, citizens would still have the best representation possible. The state constitution required districts to be set as socioeconomically integrated and contiguous as possible. However, as the state population grew, if Legislature remained the same, that could have been more and more difficult to achieve.
- The Tundra Drums published a commentary by Neal Foster who stated that the measure would benefit the state. The commentary claimed that increasing the number of seats in the legislature would benefit the people of Alaska, who are the real reasons to pass the measure. Foster argued, "How can candidates afford to travel to each village and get to know its people and its issues? How can they balance the needs of one village against another? Rural districts are already spread thin, I'm afraid that without this ballot initiative we could be stretched to the breaking point. It is important for us to unify around this point. This is not about the legislators who leave their home for Juneau every session. It is about the people they represent."
Opponents of the measure included:
- State Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich wasn't in agreement to the idea of adding seats due to legislators having less power. According to Ruedrich, "I'm not sure that anybody benefits. The chairman also stated that the measure would increase legislative operating costs. Ruedrich went on to say, "A vibrant economy is the way to maintain your representation. Without it just gets tougher and tougher and tougher."
The following were arguments that were made in opposition of the measure:
- At a time when residents were skeptical of government, and with the tea party movement occurring, now would not be the ideal time to ask residents to further expand their government.
- According to Scott Kawasaki, "I also don't think it will pass in the fall. No one I have spoken with wants to simply increase the size of the Legislature, except for some lawmakers and districts in rural Alaska who might lose more political clout."
Tactics and strategies
Scott Kawasaki proposed in legislative session a measure that would have adopted a unicameral, replacing both chambers of the the House and Senate with one single chamber. According to Kawasaki, that would have reduced district size. The measure failed in session.
- The Homer News endorsed the measure, stating, "Yes, adding more legislators will cost more. But having legislators serve large districts is expensive and can be inefficient as well."
- The Juneau Empire was in favor of the measure.
- The Ketchiken Daily News stated about the measure, "In the end, each Alaskan is still represented by one senator and one representative. The opponents seem to be of the right mind at the right time on Ballot Measure 1.
Path to the ballot
- See also: How the Alaska Constitution is amended
The measure was first introduced to the Alaska Legislature on April 9, 2009. It was approved by the Alaska State Senate on March 3, 2010 with a vote of 14-1. The measure was then sent to the Alaska House of Representatives, where it was approved with a vote of 31-8 on April 17, 2010. The measure was passed by the required 2/3rds of the Alaska Legislature on April 19, 2010, sending it to the ballot. The vote was required to let the voters decide, as per Article 13 of the Alaska Constitution.
- Alaska Elections website
- Yes on Ballot Measure 1
- Ballot Measure 1: Increase Number of Legislators and Districts; Senate Joint Resolution 21
- The Alaska State Legislature, "Bill History/Action for 26th Legislature"
- Anchorage Daily News, "Legislature adjourns after settling late issues," April 19, 2010
- Anchorage Daily News, "Legislative Briefs," February 24, 2010
- Alaska Division of Elections, "Ballot Measures Appearing on the General Election Ballot," accessed August 19, 2010
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Alaska Legislature, "Bill Text of SJR 21"
- Juneau Empire, "Rural Alaska in a fight for its voice," April 26, 2010
- KTUU.com, "Ballot Measure 1 starts to get some attention," October 11, 2010
- Anchorage Daily News, "Bush caucus supports expanding Alaska Legislature," September 13, 2010
- Anchorage Daily News, "Ballot Measure 1 will improve communication," October 15, 2010
- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "AFN asked to support Measure 1 by Murkowski," October 22, 2010
- Fairbanks Daily News Miner, "AFN throws support behind amendment to expand state legislature," October 25, 2010
- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "Constitutional amendment seeks to increase Alaska's legislators," October 17, 2010
- Alaska Journal, "Ballot Measure 1: improved representation or no?," October 29, 2010
- The Tundra Drums, "OPINION: Ballot Measure 1 keeps government for people," October 7, 2010
- The Tundra Drums, "OPINION: Number of districts needs to increase," June 16, 2010
- Juneau Empire, "Redistricting threatens Southeast representation," July 27, 2010
- Homer News, "Vote 'yes'," October 20, 2010
- Juneau Empire, "They all measure up: three items on ballot deserve support," November 1, 2010
- Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska Editorials," October 27, 2010 (dead link)
- Alaska Legislature, "SJR 21 History"
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