Compass: Redistricting plan reflects Alaska's political reality

By RANDY RUEDRICHJuly 30, 2013 

For nearly 200 years, until oil was discovered on the Kenai in 1950, the Alaskan economy underwent significant shifts.

First there were the Russian fur traders operating out of Kodiak and Sitka, then gold miners who founded Juneau, Fairbanks and Nome. Loggers and fishermen followed, settling largely in southeast coastal communities. Alaska's first Territorial Legislature that met in 1913 was dominated by Southeast and rural Alaska faces.

Not until World War II did Southcentral see an influx of people -- and that's when statehood became a possibility

When the national political parties received two new states into the union in 1959, Alaska entered as a Democrat state and Hawaii as Republican. Hawaii quickly evolved into a solid Democrat state. Alaska's first Congressional Delegation consisted of three Democrats. The first Alaska State Senate consisted of 18 Democrats and two Republicans. Southeast had five senators. Five senators represented Western Alaska. The Gulf Coast had three senators. Two Republican and two Democrat senators identified Fairbanks and Nenana as their homes. Three Democrat senators hailed from Anchorage. The Alaska State House was similarly apportioned with 35 Democrats and five Republicans. Seven Democrats represented Anchorage in the State House. The Kenai and Mat-Su areas each had one Democrat representative.

Alaska's population grew and new population centers developed. From seven Democrat House seats in 1960, Anchorage has grown to earn sixteen House representatives since the 1990 census.

Alaskan party affiliation has also undergone a significant shift. By 1980 the entire Alaska Congressional Delegation was Republican. Republican Party registration outpaced Democrat registration and 10 Republican state Senators were elected in 1990. For the 2000 election, the Republican registration stood at 118,637 while the Democrat registration trailed at 77,179. Fifteen Republicans and five Democrats served in the 2001-2002 state Senate.

In an attempt to reverse the political tide that was sinking their party, the 2001 Democrat-dominated Redistricting Board paired 18 Republican legislators. Their desperate manipulation of Alaska political sentiment distorted the Legislature for the decade.

In the 2010 election, 74,719 registered Democrats and 129,158 registered Republicans along with more than 258,000 unaffiliated voters elected twenty-four Republican House Representatives for the 2011 legislature. The stretched Democrat footprint created a 2011 Alaska State Senate featuring ten Democrats and ten Republicans.

Fair representation for a one-man, one-vote world did not happen in the Alaska Senate. The 2002 Democrat redistricting map was neither fair nor equitable in terms of state Senate representation. The 55,000 Republican voter registration advantage was buried in a 10-10 Senate in 2010.

Today, Democrats have dwindled to 69,925 in Alaska while Republican registrations have swelled to 133,317. With a 63,392 registration advantage, Republicans have elected twenty-six representatives and thirteen senators.

The 2012 Alaska Redistricting map reflected both our changing demographics and our politics. The July 14, 2013, proclamation map created districts with even smaller population deviations for strict compliance with our Alaska State Constitution.

Let's acknowledge this political change. Alaskan voters deserve this fair and equitable map for the balance of the decade.

Randy Ruedrich is the former chairman of the Alaska Republican Party.

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