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Alaska redistricting plan offers 2 regional alternatives

Patti Epler

The Alaska Redistricting Board has adopted a draft plan for redrawing the state's 40 legislative district boundaries.

Now the real squabbling can begin.

The board has been approving maps for various regions in the past week and releasing them. But the maps have not been much help to anyone not intimately familiar with the state's political system and street-level geography. They had no House district numbers on them, no Senate districts at all, and not even any detailed street or mapping information to delineate boundaries.

That generated considerable angst among groups who are monitoring the board's work with an eye toward ferreting out gerrymandering or unfair treatment of one political party or the other. The five-member board includes four Republicans and observers expect the board to try to give the GOP a political leg up.

Ron Miller, executive director of the board, said Wednesday the maps have been drawn in public sessions that have been attended by representatives of both political parties as well as a non-partisan coalition and others who are interested in the process.

Late Wednesday, the board adopted the draft -- one day ahead of its mandatory deadline. The statewide plan has two regional alternatives -- one for the Matanuska-Susitna region and one for Southeast Alaska.

The plan, which was posted on the board's website Wednesday evening, now includes maps that have House districts numbered as adopted as well as Senate districts that show the "Senate pairings" -- which two House districts make up a single Senate district. However, there are still not main streets identified making it difficult to tell what district a particular address is in.

The Senate pairings also have options, Miller said. For instance, in Southeast one option is to pair Kodiak and Ketchikan, another is to pair Ketchikan with Valdez.

The GIS mapping files the board used also have been released. Miller said that should address concerns raised by some groups that the board was refusing to release detailed mapping data that it used to draft the plan.

The board will now begin a series of hearings throughout the state -- the first is scheduled for Monday in Anchorage and critics say that has given them little time to analyze the plan and make substantive comments.

Miller said there will be other opportunities for people to comment in detail, including May 6 when the board will allow groups to present alternative plans. That meeting is a statewide teleconference that is expected to last all day.

The board now has 60 days to adopt a final plan, which is very likely to be challenged in court.

Contact Patti Epler at patti(at)alaskadispatch.com