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State rushes to run election on shaky map

Shannyn Moore

My friends, once again, Alaska is charting new waters.

The GOP-heavy redistricting board, in its zeal to break up the bipartisan coalition in charge of the Alaska Senate, has made Joe Hazelwood look like a model seaman.

Let's see how the entire state "fetched up."

Alaska's Supreme Court, listing like a dinghy in 20-foot seas, decided by a 3-2 vote that we can run this year's election on an unconstitutional map of election districts. Why? No time to do a constitutional version.

The board's map still has one last hurdle to clear: the Department of Justice, which must agree that minority Alaskans will be fairly represented in Juneau. The feds must approve Alaska's map because of our history of disenfranchising of First Alaskans.

I know, it's the old-fashioned way of ensuring democracy for groups who don't have lobbyists with a bazillion dollars to spend.

I don't see how the interim plan, now before the DOJ, can stand. It was designed to protect the interests of partisan incumbents and make it rougher on lawmakers who actually took their oath to our Constitution seriously.

So the Governor's Redistricting Board and Division of Elections staff are moving forward to run the election on an illegal map.

This is unprecedented in Alaska history. Why the hurry?

One explanation could have come from "loose lips sink ships" Russ Millette, the recently elected Alaska Republican Party chair. The Fairbanks Daily News Miner reported him saying, "Randy Ruedrich to his credit shared this with me ... he had an influence in redistricting -- not just he alone, but others. ..."

Millette went on to say that Ruedrich put three incumbent senators from the bipartisan Senate coalition in new districts, expecting them to become "bad memories in November."

Oops! Millette told the truth. That had to be an awkward phone call.

Last week an industry (read oil) report card came out. Members of the bipartisan coalition received F's. Cathy Giessel, signer of an "I won't work with Democrats" pledge, got an A+. I had to laugh. It has become such a blatant one-issue report card -- the issue being welfare for oil companies -- that no one takes it seriously.

So the industry-controlled party in charge of redistricting is using the process to torpedo Democrats and punish its own incumbents simply for falling out of lockstep with the party line.

Conservative incumbent Tom Wagoner of Kenai is being challenged by a manager for Conoco Phillips. Wasilla Sens. Linda Menard and Lesil McGuire of Anchorage also have challengers. Sure, everyone has a right to run and primaries are supposed to keep our parties healthy. I just hate to see folks who have put Alaska's interest above Big Oil's being penalized. Toe the line or else.

The Republican House has been the gas pedal for the governor's $2 billion a year oil bailout while the Senate Majority has been the emergency brake trying to keep the state's future economy from going off the road. No wonder the GOP-run redistricting board wants to break up the bipartisan working group.

So what do we have in the net, folks? A redistricting board that didn't do its job, three Supreme Court justices who think unconstitutional is OK, a party leader who boasts of his gerrymandering, a bogus report card, candidates unsure about who they're running to represent, and a Department of Justice with 60 days to decide how we'll vote.

For all the people who bitch and moan about the feds getting involved in our affairs? Well, there's a reason they're involved. We Alaskans tolerate and elect folks who keep screwing things up.

Anyone who runs aground either knows better than to try to rock the boat free or figures out pretty quickly it's a bad idea. The Supreme Court should have told the redistricting board -- which was obviously trying to run out the clock -- that our Constitution doesn't have an expiration date.

"For the record, poor planning on YOUR part does NOT constitute an emergency on OURS" would have been nice. Instead, the court passed the buck to the DOJ. If we run the election under an illegal map, what's the incentive to make any future maps legal?

Let the tide go out, assess the damage and use the old maps until the redistricting board does its job according to the law.

Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. statewide on ABC affiliates KYUR Anchorage, KATN Fairbanks and KJUD Juneau.

Shannyn Moore