Redistricting board seeks to use original plan for elections

Becky BohrerAssociated Press

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Redistricting Board on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to allow for this year's elections to be conducted under a plan that sparked a legal battle.

The board had been mulling this option, made available by the high court when it sent the plan back to the board in March for additional work.

In February, Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy found that four House districts in the plan were unconstitutional as drawn. The board and plaintiffs, two Fairbanks-area residents, made at least partial appeals to the Alaska Supreme Court.

The high court didn't get into the merits of the plan when it later ruled. But it ordered the board to follow a process laid out in an earlier case, by which it was to design a plan focusing on state constitutional requirements, then determine if the plan complied with federal law. If it didn't, the board was to make revisions deviating from the constitution when deviation is the only means available to meet the federal voting act requirements.

The board drafted a new plan but McConahy recently rejected it. The board is appealing that decision, but any oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the matter aren't expected until after May 14, the date by which the state Division of Elections says it needs a valid plan in place.

The candidate filing deadline is June 1.

An attorney for the board, Michael White, in the petition said there's insufficient time for a new plan to clear all necessary hurdles in time for the elections. Any plan must get preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice, a process that can take up to 60 days, and he said the board hasn't sought that yet, in light of the recent court action.

The Alaska Supreme Court, in earlier leaving open the possibility for elections to be conducted under the first plan, said the plan would need to be modified to address House Districts 1 and 2, two of the Fairbanks-area districts that McConahy had earlier ruled were unconstitutional as drawn. The board did not appeal that finding.

White said the board made the fixes.

Associated Press