Politics

Fifth lawsuit against redistricting board seeks new House boundaries in Southwest Alaska

Calista Corp., the regional Native corporation for a portion of Southwest Alaska, has filed a lawsuit against the Alaska Redistricting Board.

In the lawsuit, Calista and two Southwest Alaska residents say Alaska’s five-member redistricting board incorrectly excluded the towns of Hooper Bay and Scammon Bay from a House district and incorrectly put the Cook Inlet village of Tyonek into a southwest district.

The suit asks for an order requiring legislative boundaries to be redrawn to fix these issues.

“Calista Corp. believes voting is one of the most powerful actions available to citizens,” said Thomas Leonard, Calista’s director of corporate communications and shareholder services. “ As an Alaska Native corporation formed under ANCSA, it is incumbent upon us to assist in protecting the voting rights and powers of our shareholders.”

Calista’s lawsuit was filed Friday in Bethel Superior Court, ahead of a deadline for legal challenges, but staffing shortages at the Bethel courthouse meant the filing wasn’t available until Tuesday, said Rebecca Koford, a spokeswoman for the court system.

Calista’s lawsuit is the fifth legal challenge against the legislative map approved by Alaska’s five-member redistricting board last month.

The board is in charge of the once-per-decade job of redrawing the boundaries of Alaska’s legislative districts to account for changes in population. Every redistricting cycle since 1970 has involved legal challenges.

The four other cases:

A lawsuit from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough argues that House districts in the borough improperly exceed the ideal population level and improperly cross municipal and natural boundaries.

• Three Anchorage residents say in a lawsuit that the board improperly and illegally drew state Senate districts that join East Anchorage neighborhoods with Eagle River.

• The city of Valdez sued after being placed in a state House district that stretches from Valdez to the Mat-Su. The city says Valdez is economically tied to communities along the Richardson Highway instead.

• In Southeast Alaska, the city of Skagway sued over the redistricting board’s decision to put it into a district that includes Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley. Skagway argues that it has closer ties with downtown Juneau, which is in a separate district.

On Tuesday, the presiding judges of Alaska’s superior courts issued an order combining all five redistricting lawsuits into a single case. Anchorage Superior Court Judge William Morse is scheduled to hold a hearing Dec. 20 on the schedule for the combined case.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.

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