The Alaska Redistricting Board on Friday voted to take 11 maps on the road for public comment in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau before the July 4 holiday, even despite a Supreme Court decision that could influence how Alaska's voting districts are drawn.
The redistricting board was ordered to re-draw voter maps after the Alaska Supreme Court determined that the maps drawn-up in 2011 and used in last year's statewide elections didn't meet all the requirements the first time around. Redistricting takes place every 10 years, dividing voters along population lines determined every decade during the U.S. census.
Currently, a new map must meet both state and federal thresholds. Alaska's elections are closely watched by federal regulators over concerns of minority voting rights abuses in the past; Alaska is subject to provisions of the Voting Rights Act, currently under consideration by the nation's high court with a decision expected in the coming days or weeks. Under the act, changes in even small details of Alaska's electoral process must be precleared by the Justice Department. After that, state courts scrutinize the map according to state constitutional standards. That high court decision will determine how the Alaska redistricting process moves forward.
But after a Fairbanks Superior Court judge told the board to go back to work last month, they've moved quickly. On Friday, the board approved 11 draft plans for public comment in Anchorage next week, then Fairbanks on July 1 and Juneau the next day. For the full breakdown, visit the board's website. Of the 11 plans, seven were drafted with the board's input, while the other four draft plans were submitted from outside the board, including one statewide plan submitted by the office of Gazewood and Weiner, the Fairbanks attorneys who brought suit against the board on behalf of two voters.
Meanwhile, the board also voted to move forward with a limited appeal to the state Supreme Court in hopes of preventing further litigation, arguing that although they've been ordered to redraw the plans by the Supreme Court, that doesn't mean that the entire process -- which would allow for complaints to be filed by concerned parties -- has started over.
"The court seems to think we're starting anew … our interpretation is that we're only complying with the Supreme Court's order," board attorney Michael White said at Friday's meeting.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com