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

Contents

This page is about redistricting in Alaska.

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 to 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.

Cost of redistricting

Shortly after the completion of legislative maps, Alaska had spent $1.5 million on the redistricting process. The Redistricting Board budgeted another $1.4 million for defending the plan against lawsuits and pursuing Department of Justice approval of the plan under the Voting Rights Act. In total, three lawsuits were filed over the plan -- two in the Fairbanks area and one by the city of Petersburg.[2]

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 was 65. The board hired Taylor Bickford as its new executive director.[3]

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."[4]

In early January, the official state redistricting site was launched.[5] Included on the site was an event calendar, contact information, board updates and a form to join the board’s email list.[6] Once local census population data was released, the Alaska Redistricting Board had 30 days to complete its map drawing process. The census data in question was to be delivered by April 1, 2011.[7]

In late February, Albert Clough resigned from the Redistricting Board after taking a position with the state Department of Transportation. Gov. Sean Parnell appointed PeggyAnn McConnochie to replace Clough.[8]

Redistricting board members

The five members of the 2011 Redistricting Board were:[9]

  • 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 on alaskalegislature.tv from its final meetings, May 23 - June 4.

Census results

2010 Census

Census data showed slowing growth for Alaska in the previous 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 of Alaska retained its single congressional seat.[10]

Local Data

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

On March 14, 2011 the state redistricting board received Alaska's local census data. This data was to guide mapmakers as they redrew state legislative districts.[11] According to earlier Department of Labor estimates, Southeast and rural Alaska would have been the hardest hit. The greatest increases were said to be in the Matanuska-Susitna area. Fairbanks was also predicted to see an increase in representation. Both central Kenai Peninsula districts were said to 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 via 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 were insufficient to maintain its two house seats and one senate seat. Thus, Juneau's districts required 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 redrew political lines in the Southeast. Details of the plans can be found here.

Deadline looming for Redistricting Board

The Alaska Redistricting Board was to have preliminary maps drawn by April 14, 2011. In the run-up to the plan's release there were several public meeting and work sessions.

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. Each senate district would continue to be composed of exactly two house districts.[16] Indeed, at least one controversy surrounding the plans was which house districts ought to be paired together. For example, some argued that the plans, which pair Ketchikan with either Kodiak or Valdez, ignored the lack of shared community interests in the districts. As expected, the plans reduce representation in the state's Southeast.[17]

Others were concerned that the plans split some Native Alaskan lands and combined Anchorage and Fairbanks suburbs with rural districts.[18][19] Still others were concerned about the splitting of 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 deliberately paired incumbents through small adjustments to legislative boundary, a tactic the group called gerrymandering. However, Ron Miller, late executive director of the board, argued that the locations of legislator residences were not a factor in drawing the new maps. Overall, the plan was believed 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 then began work on the final plans.

 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 submitted proposals to the Alaska Redistricting Board intended to guide the state's redistricting of the area. However, at least two Assembly members expressed anger over the submission of the plans. Elvi Gray-Jackson and Harriet Drummond claimed that the submissions did not reflect the consensus of the nonpartisan Assembly and instead represented Republican partisan interests. The plans, which appeared similar to those proposed by the Republican group, Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, would have paired several incumbents. However, Republican Party of Alaska Chair Randy Ruedrich argued that the plans were not partisan but intended to restore political boundaries to their earlier positions. Mayor Sullivan further argued that the plan better matched 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 adopted plans for the state's Southeast. As several leaders in the area had requested, the plan placed two Senate districts in the Southeast. House districts, however, were less in keeping with local requests. The plan paired downtown Juneau and Petersburg. In addition, Skagway was paired with some northern Juneau neighborhoods, and Prince of Wales Island lay in two House districts.[27] Redistricting board member Peggy Ann McConnochie argued that the pairings reflected similar local interests in the fishing and cruise industry.[28]

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

Redistricting Board adopts statewide plan

The Alaska Redistricting Board adopted statewide redistricting plans in June 2011. The plan removed a house seat from the Southeast and added one in Mat-Su. In order to comply with the provisions of the Voting Rights Act and create a native-influence district, the plan created a sprawling Senate district which included Cordova, Dillingham, and Kodiak. The district ranged from the Yukon-Kuskoskwim Delta to Yakutat.[32] The plan also split the Aleutian Islands into different house districts, a move ruled unconstitutional by the Alaska Supreme Court in 1992. In total, the plan created six House districts and six Senate districts where Native representatives stood a good chance of being elected. Given population shifts, these districts were largely rural.[33]

Democrats criticized the plan, which threatened to jeopardize the 10-10 partisan tie in the Alaska Senate. Democrats contended that the new plan could hurt the re-election chances of several Democratic lawmakers, including Bettye Davis, Bill Wielechowski, Joe Paskvan, and Joe Thomas. According to Alaska Democratic Party Chairperson Patti Higgins, the state party was considering a court challenge. Alaskans for Fair Redistricting, a coalition of labor unions and Native American groups, also announced they were mulling a lawsuit.[34] In response, Alaska GOP Chairman Randy Ruedrich argued that maps were fair, noting that the plan only paired 5 sets of incumbents, with similar numbers of Republican and Democratic legislators affected.[33]

In addition, the plan significantly re-numbered/re-lettered the state's legislative districts, beginning in Fairbanks rather than Ketchikan.[35] Ordinarily, half (10) of Alaska's senators would be up for election in 2012, and half would be up for election in 2014. Alaska senators serve staggered four-year terms. However in 2012, every senator except Dennis Egan (D) would face re-election due to substantial changes in their constituency. (Egan's district saw only marginal change.) Senators scheduled for the 2014 election were elected to two-year terms in 2012, preserving Alaska's staggered Senate elections.[36] The final plan and legal documentation were officially completed on June 14, 2011.[37]

 Alaska Redistricting: Statewide Redistricting Plan[38] 
 Note: Numbers denote house districts, and letters denote senate pairings. 

Board submits plan to DOJ

On August 11, the Alaska Redistricting Board submitted the state’s redistricting plan to the Department of Justice for pre-clearance. Alaska is one of several states that require Department of Justice approval prior to implementation. Although the VRA most often applies to states with a history of discrimination against African Americans, it applies to Alaska due to its significant native population.[39]

Earlier in the same week, the board released an internal review of the state redistricting plan in light of the Voting Rights Act.[40] The report was included in the state's submission to the DOJ.

  • The full submission can be found here.

DOJ approves redistricting plan

On October 11, the US Department of Justice approved Alaska's legislative redistricting plan. However, the plan still had to survive a pending legal challenge in state court. In August, the Redistricting Board announced that it would defend the districts at issue in the lawsuit on the basis of Voting Rights Act requirements.[41][42]

Map rejected by court, ordered redrawn

The Alaska Supreme Court rejected the legislative plan, ultimately choosing an interim plan for the 2012 elections.

On December 28, 2012, the court ordered the state's redistricting plan be redrawn for the 2014 elections, ruling that the redistricting board did not follow the process as was instructed by the court. Following the maps initial rejection, the court had ordered the board to redraw them with a focus on state Constitution requirements, then make changes only if necessary to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. This latest ruling said the board first drew the districts to comply with the VRA and only then turned to the requirements of the state constitution.[43][44]

Early in January 2013, the Alaska Redistricting Board filed a petition with the state Supreme Court, asking them to reconsider their decision. According to attorneys for the board, the court overlooked or misunderstood important facts in the case and also violated the separation of powers doctrine.[45]

Renewed efforts toward redistricting plan

The Alaska Redistricting Board took a step back to work towards a new redistricting plan by July 12, 2013 after an order from the Alaska Superior Court. Two residents brought suit against the board due in part to the slow pace of deliberations. Board members delayed deliberations on a new map until the United States Supreme Court rendered judgement on a case dealing with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Alaska Redistricting Board resumed deliberations in June to review submitted maps, tour the state for public hearings and reconvene on July 12 for a final vote on a new map.[46] The Board voted to consider seven different Draft Plans and four Third Party Plans.[47] On July 14, the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted its 2013 Proclamation Plan.[48][49] The adopted plans can be found on the Alaska Redistricting Board website, here.

Citizen Activism

Groups formed to influence redistricting

Two groups, Alaskans for Fair Redistricting and Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, were formed to influence state redistricting. Both planned 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.[50]

Interest groups release maps

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

Native representation

The Alaska Federation of Natives speculated that increased cost of living 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.[51] Kookesh speculated that his own seat may be lost to redistricting.[52]

Legal issues

Note: July 14, 2011 was the deadline for challenges to the state's redistricting plan.

Fairbanks borough lawsuit

On June 24, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly voted 8-1 to sue the state over its new redistricting maps. The suit was officially filed on July 13, 2011.[53] The community argued that the map impermissibly diluted Fairbanks voters by placing a significant portion of northwest Fairbanks in a expansive house district which included communities along the Bearing Sea coastline. In addition, the Borough Assembly argued that some of the city's voters had been unnecessarily split into two house districts.[54][55] The Alaska Constitution requires that, "Each house district shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area." The Assembly's resolution can be found here.

Fairbanks voters file separate suit

A group of Fairbanks residents filed a similar but separate lawsuit challenging the redistricting plan.[56]

Petersburg lawsuit

On July 12, the City of Petersburg filed a complaint against Alaska's legislative redistricting map. Joining the suit as plaintiffs were a board member of the Petersburg Indian Association and a local resident. The complaint argued that the map violated the Alaska Constitution by including Petersburg and part of Juneau in a single district. The plaintiffs argued that the regions were not socio-economically integrated.[57]

Aleutians consider litigation

The Aleutians East Borough had considered litigation against the state over the new legislative redistricting plan. As it stood, the plan split the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutians Islands into different house districts. A similar move was ruled unconstitutional by the Alaska Supreme Court in 1992. The community argued that the region shares social and economic ties and should not be divided.[58] However, after further considering its legal options, the borough decided against the suit.[59]

Mat-Su challenge vetoed

After a unanimous vote by the Borough Assembly in favor of challenging the state's redistricting plan, the Mat-Su mayor vetoed the resolution. The Assembly attempted to override the veto, but could not get the required supermajority.[60] In passing the original resolution, the Assembly was primarily motivated by the wide-ranging House District 6 which includes Fishhook, Sutton-Chickaloon, and Delta Junction.[55]

Democrats decide against lawsuit

The Alaska Democratic Party decided against challenging the state's redistricting plans. Party Chair Patti Higgins said that while the party would not sue over the maps, they would support others who choose to challenge the maps.[61]

Court consolidates lawsuits

Judge Michael McConahy of Alaska's Fourth District Superior Court decided to consolidate the three challenges to the state redistricting plan into a single case. The trial was set for January 2012 in Fairbanks.[62][63]

Ketchikan seeks to intervene in favor of maps

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough sought to join the lawsuit over state redistricting. However, unlike the three groups challenging the plans, Ketchikan attempted to join the state in defending the new maps. Ketchikan Borough attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen argued that if the court agreed with the City of Petersburg's complaints, it could force the state to divide Ketchikan among multiple districts.[64]

Board to defend map via VRA

One of the main points at issue in Alaska's consolidated redistricting lawsuit was the shape of District 38, the subject of the original Fairbanks lawsuits. The Alaska Redistricting Board announced that it would not defend the district on the basis of social or economic factors. Rather, the Board defended the district under the Voting Rights Act, which mandates fair representation for minorities. Counsel for Fairbanks residents, Mike Walleri, welcomed the move, arguing that it simplified the facts at issue in the case.[65]

Plaintiffs inquire into board meetings

Attorneys for plaintiffs in the consolidated redistricting lawsuit looked into into whether Redistricting Board meetings followed Alaska's Open Meetings Act. Attorney Michael White, who defended the state's 2001 maps, called the move a "red herring."[66]

Fairbanks Borough out, Petersburg repositions

On October 25, the Fairbanks North Star Borough filed a motion to have itself removed from the consolidated redistricting lawsuit. The borough cited cost overruns as the reason for backing out of the suit. Following the Fairbanks decision, the City of Petersburg decided to consolidate its position, dropping some of its more tenuous arguments and focusing on the new districts' lack of compactness. The recent DOJ pre-approval made several of the city's claims harder to litigate. Petersburg was split by two districts under the new plan.[67][68]

Withdrawal challenged, permitted

On October 31, the attorney for the group of Fairbanks citizens challenging the state's redistricting plan filed a partial opposition to the request for withdrawal. The decision to withdraw caused a significant controversy among Fairbanks residents since it was made in a private executive session and an original supporter (specifically named as a plaintiff in the borough lawsuit), Fairbanks Assemblyman Tim Beck, voiced opposition to the withdrawal. The partial opposition sought to block the withdrawal unless the vote was public and Beck consented. The borough argued that is did not need the consent of the other parties to withdraw, but the opponents argued that, since the cases have all be consolidated, other plaintiffs should have had input on the decision.[69]

Ultimately, the court decided to allow the Fairbanks Borough to withdraw, deciding on November 3 to permit the move. The judge noted that the Fairbanks Assembly's open meeting rules were not at issue in the case and that the remaining plaintiffs were free to argue points raised by the borough's filings without amending their own.[70]

Borough assembly to fund lawsuit

Although the Fairbanks Borough Assembly officially withdrew from the consolidated redistricting lawsuit on November 3, the Assembly voted to provide $25,000 in legal services for the remaining plaintiffs. The Assembly was deadlocked on the issue, but freshly sworn-in Assemblyman John Davies broke the tie. He was on vacation and missed the ordinary swearing-in date for borough assembly members. Davies was a former Democratic member of the Alaska House of Representatives. Opponents suggest that the decision was politically motivated -- a charge Davies denied.[71]

Petersburg challenge rejected

On December 12, Judge Michael McConahy of Alaska's Fourth District Superior Court ruled against the city of Petersburg's redistricting challenge. The city argued that the 32nd District did not meet the compactness requirements of the Alaska Constitution. However, the Redistricting Board ultimately prevailed, arguing that the district's shape was required to accommodate a minority influence district for native Alaskans.[72][73]

No appeal for Petersburg, Fairbanks residents remain

After a legal defeat, the City of Petersburg decided against appealing the decision. However, a group of Fairbanks residents -- the only plaintiffs remaining -- continued their fight against the state's legislative districts. The residents contend that the state failed to consider differences within the Native Alaskan community that impact the calculation of how many VRA districs the state should have. The Fairbanks residents argued for four VRA districts instead of the new map's five. Attorneys for the state disagreed, arguing that these differences were not relevant to the calculation.[74][75]

Preliminary ruling issued

On Friday, December 23, Judge Michael McConahy of Alaska's Fourth District Superior Court issued a preliminary ruling, siding with several Fairbanks residents on a number of key issues concerning their pending redistricting challenge. He ruled that Districts 1, 2, 37, and 38 all violated the Alaska Constitution's compactness requirements. However, since the Voting Rights Act trumps this provision, the board had another avenue to defend its map. McConahy did rule that District 2 had no credible VRA defense. The trial was scheduled to begin on January 9.[76][77]

Redistricting trial begins

On Monday, January 9, a trial began for the remaining Alaska redistricting challenge. The chairman of the redistricting board, a redistricting expert, and two state senators testified.[78][79][80]

Redistricting trial ends

Approximately a week after after it got underway, the trial for the remaining Alaska redistricting lawsuit drew to a close on January 17. A final decision in the case was expected to be issued by the Fairbanks Superior court by February 6. However, observers believed that the case would ultimately be decided by the Alaska Supreme Court.[81]

Judge orders four districts redrawn, appealed

On February 3, Judge Michael McConahy of Alaska's Fourth District Superior Court ruled that state House Districts 1, 2, 37, and 38 violated the Alaska Constitution. McConahy found that Districts 1, 2, and 37 violated the compactness criterion of the state constitution. In addition, he found that District 37 violated the contiguity condition and that District 38 violated the socio-economic integration condition. McConahy was less sympathetic toward the plaintiffs' claims of partisan gerrymandering, but he noted that the Voting Rights Act justifications offered for the districts were wanting. The Alaska Redistricting Board appealed the decision on Districts 37 and 38. Plaintiffs planned to appeal McConahy's decision on Districts 6 and 38, arguing that the problems with District 38 were not fully recognized in the ruling. Oral arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court were set for March 13.[82][83]

  • The full ruling can be found here.

AK Supreme Court rules on maps

On Tuesday, March 13, the Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against the state's new legislative districts. The previous month, Judge Michael McConahy of Alaska's Fourth District Superior Court ruled that state House Districts 1, 2, 37, and 38 violated the Alaska Constitution. McConahy found that Districts 1, 2, and 37 violated the compactness criterion of the state constitution. In addition, he found that District 37 violated the contiguity condition and that District 38 violated the socio-economic integration condition. The Alaska Redistricting Board appealed the ruling with respect to Districts 37 and 38, defending the districts as drawn to comply with the Voting Rights Act.[84]

On Wednesday, March 14, the High Court ruled that the redistricting board had to redraw the plan with a priority on following the Alaska Constitution. The court did not specifically rule on Districts 37 and 38. Instead, it instructed the Board to first attempt to square the districts with the state constitution, then adjust for compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Only then, argued the court, would the justices be able to evaluate which deviations from the constitution were truly necessary.[85]

If the map was not altered in advance of the 2012 elections, the board could have petitiond to use the contested plan as an interim map, redrawing the districts after the election season. However, since the changes ordered to Districts 1 and 2 were not contested in the appeal, these changes had to be made to any interim map. The case was remanded to Judge McConahy who set a April 2 deadline for submission of a new plan. The plaintiffs and other interested parties were invited to submit their own proposals. The Board scheduled meetings from March 26-31 to work on a new plan.[86][87]

  • The Supreme Court's ruling can be found here.

Timeline dropped

After the Alaska Supreme Court remanded the redistricting challenge to the superior court, Judge McConahy set an April 2 deadline for submitting new plans and an April 13 deadline for review and adoption by the Board. Opponents were also invited to file their own map submissions by April 2 or file objections to the adopted plan by April 23. The board was given until April 27 to respond to any objections. McConahy set a May 7 court date for revisiting the plans.[88]

Although the Alaska Redistricting Board had already scheduled meetings to make the necessary revisions, it questioned McConahy's authority to establish the timeline. On March 16, attorneys for the Board asked McConahy vacate the order establishing the deadlines. On March 21, McConahy agreed to vacate the order. The board planned to complete the revised map by June 1--Alaska's filing deadline for legislative candidates. The board held a series of meetings each day the following week to begin work on the new map. Citizens unable to attend the meetings in person were able to participate via streaming video or teleconference.[89][90]

  • Dates and other information on the meetings can be found here.

Board works on new map

On March 14, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the redistricting board had to redraw its first map with a priority on following the Alaska Constitution. Only when a constitutional map was drafted could the board adjust it for compliance with the Voting Rights Act. On Tuesday, March 27, the board approved a preliminary plan in compliance with the state constitution. On Thursday, March 29, the board approved adjustments to the Fairbanks area to satisfy the VRA. The board aimed to have all the necessary adjustments made by that Saturday. Most notably, Thursday's tweaks restored a Senate seat to Fairbanks.[91][92]

Revised maps approved

On April 5, the Alaska Redistricting Board approved a pair of revised legislative maps. One was the revised redistricting map. The other was an interim plan approved in case the revised plan was rejected by the courts or the DOJ. The interim map was quite similar to the original, overturned map.[93]

  • The current map can be found here.
  • The original redistricting map can be found here.
  • The interim map can be found here.
  • The revised map can be found here.

Deadline for objections set

On April 5, the Alaska Redistricting Board approved revised redistricting maps, following a lawsuit which overturned the original plans. Judge Michael McConahy gave the plaintiffs until April 16 to file complaints regarding the revised map. The board had to submit its response to any complaints by April 18. The revised plan also faced DOJ vetting under the Voting Rights Act. The filing deadline for Alaska legislative candidates was June 1, 2012.[94]

Revised maps thrown out

On April 20, Judge Michael McConahy of Alaska's Fourth District Superior Court struck down the state Redistricting Board's revised map. He found that the plan still failed to ensure compliance with the Alaska Constitution. Earlier in the year, McConahy and (upon appeal) the Alaska Supreme Court overturned Board's original plan. The Board held a public meeting on April 24 to consider an appeal.[95][96]

  • The ruling in the case can be found here.
  • Details and teleconference info for the meeting can be found here.

Board appeals, asks for interim map

On May 3, the Alaska Redistricting Board petitioned the state Supreme Court to allow the original redistricting plan to remain in place for the 2012 elections. The original plan, along with a revised plan had been struck down by the courts. The Board appealed the latest ruling to the Supreme Court. However, with the candidate filing deadline on June 1, a ruling in that appeal might not come in time, and a provisional map might have been required. Even once a final plan was approved, the Department of Justice still had to clear the plan.[97][98]

Supreme Court rejects revised maps

On May 10, the Alaska Supreme Court rejected the Alaska Redistricting Board's revised redistricting map. A previous version of the map had already been struck down by the court. Although the ruling reiterated the need to more closely adhere to the Alaska Constitution, it also gave more specific instructions regarding the map. The court ordered the Board to redraw House Districts 31 through 34 and Senate Districts P and Q. The court had previously instructed the Board to make Voting Rights Act adjustments only after the state constitutional requirements were satisfied. However, this time the court instructed the board not to make VRA adjustments since, according to the court, the Act did not justify diverging from the state constitution for the districts in question. The Board had until May 15 to revise the plans. Objections had to be filed by May 18.[99]

Board revises plan

On May 14, the Alaska Redistricting Board approved changes to the state legislative map in an effort to satisfy instructions issued by the state Supreme Court. The plan was the Board's third attempt to redraw Alaska's legislative districts.[100]

Supreme Court picks interim map

On May 22, the Alaska Supreme Court selected an interim redistricting plan for the 2012 elections. The Alaska Redistricting Board's first revised plan was approved as the interim plan. The Board's second and latest revision was not selected. While the court did not formally rule on the latter plan, it was expected to issues instructions for revising the plan's southeast districts. The court expressed concern that the latest version would not pass muster under the Voting Rights Act.[101]

On May 25, the Redistricting Board submitted the interim redistricting plan for DOJ pre-clearance. Plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuit asked the court to stay the implementation of the plan until the DOJ reached a decision.[102][103]

  • The interim plan can be found here.
  • The Supreme Court order can be found here.

On June 15, a U.S. District Judge ruled that Alaska's election plans could move forward while the state's interim redistricting map waited to be evaluated by a three-judge federal panel. The lawsuit was filed by a group of Alaska natives. They argued that the map could not be implemented until it was precleared by the DOJ. Specifically, they asked the judge to suspend implementation of the map until their case could be heard by a planned, three-judge panel. While this request was denied, the maps could still have been suspended by the panel, which would have placed the state's August 28 primary elections in jeopardy.[104]

State challenges pre-clearance requirement

With a three-judge panel set to consider on June 28 if the elections could proceed with final approval from the DOJ pending, the state challenged the pre-clearance requirement. In a press release, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) stated, "Under Section 5, if the state wants to move a polling place across the street, it has to get federal permission. If it wants to change the wording on a form, it has to get federal permission. This federal intrusion into our state elections is unnecessary, burdensome, and unconstitutional. Congress has no basis to micromanage Alaska’s elections. It’s time to get out from under this yoke."[105]

Attorney General Michael Geraghty stressed that the state was only challenging the requirement that federal permission is necessary prior to making any changes to the state's electoral process, not the entire Voting Rights Act.[105]

On August 21, 2012, the state of Alaska filed suit arguing that Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act are unconstitutional and should not be enforced. According to the lawsuit, "no such evidence exists" that Alaska should be on the list of states required to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for redistricting plans or proposed election changes.[106]

Timeline

Preliminary plans were due 30 days after local census data is received by the state, and final plans were due 90 days after receipt. Litigation contesting the plan had to be filed within 30 days of the final plan in the Alaska Superior Court. The redistricting timeline for Alaska was as follows:[107]

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 [108]

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.[109]

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.[110]

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[111]
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.[112]

  • 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 (dead link) 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, Measure 3 (1998).

See also

External links

References

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