Haines Borough challenges latest redistricting plan

Becky BohrerAssociated Press

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Redistricting Board's latest attempt at redrawing the state's political boundaries has drawn opposition. The state Supreme Court must decide whether to approve the plan, or send it back to the board for yet another try.

The candidate filing deadline is June 1.

Earlier this month, the court ordered the board to redraw Southeast Alaska districts, working off the second plan the board devised. The board's newest proposal has garnered a handful of challenges, including one from the Haines Borough, which in court documents filed Friday describes the board's work as having "blown up" Southeast Alaska.

The borough, through its attorney, Brooks Chandler, said the plan "significantly disenfranchises" rural communities in the region.

"Today these rural voices have a common platform from which to voice their unique social and economic concerns in the halls of the Alaska Legislature. Adoption of the proposed Amended districts will mute this perspective to the detriment not just of Southeast residents but of all Alaska," Chandler wrote in the filing.

The board, in seeking to comply with an order that it redraw Southeast Alaska based on state constitutional requirements, paired Republican Reps. Cathy Munoz, of Juneau, with Rep. Bill Thomas, of Haines.

Taylor Bickford, the board's executive director, said no matter how the region is configured, at least one of Juneau's House districts must reach beyond the Juneau borough's boundaries to ensure a balance of population in the districts.

"The demographics are such that there is no way to avoid pairing a more 'urban' population base from Juneau with a more 'rural' population base from Haines, Petersburg, or elsewhere," he said in an email Monday

Others in opposition include the two Fairbanks-area residents who were plaintiffs to the lawsuit over the first redistricting plan, the RIGHTS Coalition and Sealaska Corp. and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

Associated Press