Southcentral residents get chance to speak up on redistricting plan this week

Final proclamation due Nov. 10 for new statewide legislative districts
Proposed district boundaries are overlain on an interactive map on the Alaska Redistricting...
Proposed district boundaries are overlain on an interactive map on the Alaska Redistricting Board's website.(From Alaska Redistricting Board)
Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 5:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Anchorage residents will have three chances to give their feedback on the proposed redistricting maps for the state of Alaska this week, with local open house meetings.

The Alaska Redistricting Board re-draws the lines every 10 years after the census is completed. This year’s process has six proposals under consideration. Two of the proposed plans were created by the Alaska Redistricting Board. The Senate Minority, Doyon Coalition, Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, and Alaskans for Fair Redistricting have each submitted a proposal that the board adopted into the process.

See an interactive version of the map, with overlays for all six proposals, here.

There are some large-scale changes in the Mat-Su and Anchorage areas, and many smaller ones.

On the large-scale, the district that currently covers Chugiak, Peters Creek, Eklutna, Fairview Loop and the Butte is broken up between the Mat-Su and Municipality of Anchorage areas in almost all of the maps. The Fairview Loop portion is completely broken away in all the proposals. In some versions of the proposal, Eagle River is looped in with some East Anchorage, or Fort Richardson areas.

The Doyon Coalition proposal groups Eagle River Valley residents with Fort Richardson and northeast Muldoon communities, and in a separate district, parts of Eagle River and all of Chugiak, Birchwood and Eklutna, with the Butte. The Alaskans for Fair Redistricting proposal groups Eklutna, Peters Creek and parts of Chugiak together in one district, the rest of Chugiak, Birchwood and most of Eagle River into a second, and the Eagle River Valley with a small residential portion of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in a third.

On the south side of Anchorage and Turnagain Arm, House District 28, which includes the Upper Hillside and Turnagain Arm, is re-shaped in all of the proposals. The Senate Minority’s proposal loops in Whittier, Hope, Cooper Landing, Moose Pass, and part of Sterling. The Alaskans for Fair Redistricting plan excludes Whittier, but includes Hope, Cooper Landing, and the Sterling Highway corridor all the way to Sterling.

The Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting plan includes areas on the Hillside South of Huffman, Turnagain Arm, and a strip along the edge of the Kenai Peninsula that includes the community of Nikiski and Captain Cook State Recreation Area. A proposal by the Doyon Coalition excludes the Anchorage Hillside and groups Turnagain Arm communities, Whittier and Hope with Cooper Landing, Sterling and Nikiski. Two separate versions proposed by the board include parts of the Anchorage Hillside and Oceanview, Turnagain Arm communities and Whittier.

The vast swath of Kenai Peninsula communities being combined with the Anchorage Hillside has some people questioning the similar interests of people in the two areas. The Anchorage municipality borders the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which makes the two areas easier to be grouped together, according to redistricting board member Bethany Marcum. Other things taken into consideration, she said, are other ties that bond areas, like health care coverage facilities, and similar ways in which people live, work and play.

“One of the criteria that our Constitution requires is one of the things that we hear most about from members of the public, and that’s what’s called socioeconomic integration, and that’s kind of being grouped together with those who are like-minded,” Marcum explained. “But more specifically in a legal way, it’s people who live together, work together, play together, and therefore have the sorts of associations with which they would like to be able to bond together and elect their representation.”

In the Mat-Su Borough, all plans have the fast-growing Knik-Fairview Loop area breaking away from the Butte and Peters Creek areas it currently shares representation with. Most of the proposals group it with neighborhoods along the Knik-Goose Bay Road area and up toward Trunk Road, but the Alaskans for Fair Redistricting plan stretches the area to include Knik-Goose Bay Road and Point Mackenzie to the Little Susitna River.

On a large scale, eastern areas of the Mat-Su Borough in House District 9 currently share a representative with Valdez, Delta Junction and Fort Greely. The six proposals drastically re-shape that area as well, grouping Susitna Valley communities with the Denali Borough communities of Healy, Denali Park, Clear, and in some cases, Cantwell. Marcum says that feedback on previous maps led to those areas being grouped together in most of the proposals.

“The Denali Borough is low population and they’ve indicated — public officials have indicated that they prefer that to some of the options. And so most of the maps that are out there now combine the population of the Mat-Su Borough with the Denali Borough,” Marcum said.

This week’s meetings will allow residents to review the plans, ask questions of the drafters and give feedback either verbally, in a voice recording, written, or through an online portal. The meetings scheduled in Southcentral Alaska this week are:

  • Monday, Oct. 25, 6-8 p.m. Mat-Su Borough Assembly Chambers - Palmer
  • Tuesday, Oct. 26, 6-8 p.m. - Curtis Menard Memorial Center - Wasilla
  • Wednesday, Oct. 27, 5-7 p.m. - Lakefront Hotel 4800 Spenard Road - Anchorage
  • Saturday, Oct. 30, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Statewide Dial-in - call 844-586-9085 toll free statewide.

There will be public meetings in Utqiagvik on Thursday, Oct. 28, and the final hearing of the process in Cordova on Monday, Nov. 1.

“It’s a hybrid model is what we’re using,” Marcum said Monday. “We start all of the meetings with the opportunity for people to walk around and look at the maps, compare maps, ask questions of the board members and staff, make sure that they understand what’s being proposed.”

After the Nov. 1 input meeting, the board will work to release its final proclamation before the deadline of Nov. 10. The plan will go into effect for the statewide primary elections to take place June 1.

Alaskans will receive new voter registration cards and perhaps voting precinct information in the mail before that election. Local municipalities and boroughs have their own reapportionment processes for their local elections.

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