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Redistricting board unveils boundary changes for Southeast

Becky Bohrer

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Redistricting Board on Monday made what its executive director called significant changes to Southeast Alaska's political boundaries in an effort to win court approval for the plan.

Taylor Bickford said the board adopted new districts that pair state Reps. Cathy Munoz, R-Juneau, and Bill Thomas, R-Haines, together. Reps. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, and Kyle Johansen, R-Ketchikan, who had previously been paired, would no longer be. Sens. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, and Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, would remain paired.

The board is seeking to comply with a state Supreme Court order that it redraw Southeast Alaska based on state constitutional requirements. The court in its decision last week said it found no justification under the federal Voting Rights Act for deviating from those requirements in the region.

The reformulated plan is due to the court for further consideration by noon Tuesday. Any objections to the new districts are due by Friday.

Whatever plan ultimately passes judicial muster also will need approval by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The candidate filing deadline is June 1.

Candidates who've filed for office so far have done so according to the first map the board drew. The court rejected the board's request to use that plan for this year's elections, but outside Southeast Alaska, state Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said she knew of only two candidates who would have to file again in different districts if the rest of the plan that the board is working on stands. They are Sen. Joe Thomas and Rep. Bob Miller, both of Fairbanks.

While the Elections Division had said it needed to have a valid plan in place by Monday to meet state and federal obligations for the elections, Fenumiai said not having one yet will simply push back the date by which the division hoped to submit precinct boundaries to Justice for pre-clearance, a process that can take up to 60 days.

Fenumiai said the division will seek expedited review once the court makes its final decision. Precinct boundaries must be established by July 19 to comply with the law, she said.


By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press