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Alaska Redistricting Board approves map ahead of final vote next week

"I voted today!" sticker in Juneau on Aug. 18, 2020.
"I voted today!" sticker in Juneau on Aug. 18, 2020.(KTUU)
Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 7:25 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Redistricting Board approved a map for the state’s political boundaries on Friday evening after debate about East Anchorage, Eagle River and the Fairbanks area.

The board must approve a final map before a Nov. 10 deadline in the process that happens place every 10 years after the U.S. Census Bureau releases new population data.

The board voted 4-1 to approve a map on Friday evening before “technical and error checking” that will take place over the weekend. A final vote needs to take place on or before Wednesday.

A lengthy executive session held behind closed doors dealt with a legal analysis of the Voting Rights Act and its impact on some map proposals, leading to delays for the last opportunity for public testimony. After that analysis, one Anchorage map, drawn by Bethany Marcum, board member appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, was hurriedly redrawn.

Northeast Anchorage had spilled into an Eagle River House district which had attracted criticism. Mountain View was also connected to downtown Anchorage. Both ideas were dropped and the map was amended as “v.3 Anchorage Alt 3.”

Marcum said her focus has been reducing population deviation between districts as much as possible and preserving the principle of one person, one vote.

Celeste Hodge Growden, president of the Alaska Black Caucus, called for the board to adopt “v.4 Anchorage Best” which was drawn by Nicole Borromeo, who was appointed by independent Rep. Bryce Edgmon when he was House speaker. She said Marcum’s proposal would split some of Anchorage’s most diverse neighborhoods.

The boundaries of Eagle River districts have stymied board members. Should they extend up to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough? Or, should they push further into East Anchorage?

Assembly Member Jamie Allard called in to testify, saying it was “natural” to connect Eagle River and East Anchorage. Other callers disagreed, arguing that residents directly east of Muldoon Road are more closely connected to East Anchorage.

Eventually, the board voted 3-2 to approve the “v.4 Anchorage Best” map drawn by Borromeo, which leaves Eagle River and East Anchorage intact.

A proposal floated earlier in the week to put Ester and Goldstream Valley into an Interior House district attracted significant public criticism. John Binkley, chair of the Alaska Redistricting Board, said that followed a resolution approved by the Fairbanks Northstar Borough Assembly.

Savannah Fletcher, Fairbanks Northstar Borough assembly member, disagreed with that proposal, saying it made sense to have Goldstream Valley connected to a district around the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Many other callers agreed with Fletcher.

The board eventually approved maps for the Fairbanks North Star Borough and Interior region that moved Goldstream Valley out of Fairbanks districts, and kept Ester within Fairbanks districts.

Western Alaska has also been complicated, especially where communities like Scammon Bay and Chevak should be placed. The board is guided by constitutional requirements for districts to be compact, contiguous and “a relatively integrated socio-economic area.”

Marcum was the sole no vote against approving a map Friday night. Now, staff will do technical checking to make sure all areas of the map are accurate before the board works on Senate pairings on Monday.

The board will reconvene at 9 a.m. Monday, and will start off by taking public testimony. The members will work to pair the 40 House seats with the 20 Senate districts.

Screenshots of the map approved Friday should be uploaded to the board’s website later in the evening for the public to look at. Following the Senate pairing work, the next step is a final proclamation, or the final plan, the board said. Final approval of the map will start of a 30-day process during which the public will have the opportunity to challenge the proclamation via the court system.

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