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High court orders new redistricting for 2014 Alaska election

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Alaska's newly redrawn political districts, which sent the 2012 elections into a frenzy -- with 59 of 60 seats up for re-election -- will have to be redone. Again. This time before the 2014 election.

On Friday the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the plan, authored by the state's redistricting board, had violated court-ordered procedures by adhering to the U.S. Voting Rights Act first, with compliance with the Alaska State Constitution a secondary consideration.

Redistricting is timed to occur with the numbers that emerge from each new U.S. census, and in theory maps are redrawn to ensure populations across the state have fair representation. But the process is easily politicized. For the 2012 redistricting, Democrats complained a Republican-skewed redistricting board created boundaries to facilitate the election of more Republicans. Critics also complained the new boundaries disenfranchised Alaska Native voters living in rural Alaska. In the state's last big redistricting effort nearly a decade ago, complaints were levied that a Democrat-led board created pro-Democrat districts to tip the balance of power in their favor.

The Associated Press reports the high court, in its split decision, found that the redistricting board should have utilized a process that gave deference to Alaska's Constitution, only straying from compliance where necessary to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

“Alaska is among the states required to submit redistricting plans or proposed election changes to the U.S. Justice Department for review to ensure the plans aren't discriminatory,” the AP reported.

Read more here.