Mat-Su Borough files lawsuit challenging Alaska Redistricting Board plan

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 4:29 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Matanuska-Susitna Borough filed a lawsuit in Superior Court on Thursday challenging the plan adopted by the Alaska Redistricting Board on Nov. 10.

The suit argues that the board erred in the drawing of district maps by underrepresenting the growing population of the Mat-Su Borough, and took issue with communities both included and excluded from Mat-Su districts.

Mat-Su Borough Manager Mike Brown is listed as a plaintiff in the suit filed with Anchorage law firm Holmes, Weddle and Barcott. While the board represented the Mat-Su with six separate districts, House Districts 29 and 30 include communities located outside of the Mat-Su Borough.

“Every House District within the MSB (25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30) exceeds the quotient for the ideal House District,” the suit states. “Combined, the total overpopulation of the districts is 13.75 percent. This represents the most significant deviation of any geographic area in the State of Alaska as proposed in the Final Plan. The Final Plan raises an inference of intentional discrimination, by unnecessarily dividing the MSB in ways which dilute the effective strength of MSB voters. The plan improperly discriminates against the voters of the MSB in that it places excess population into all House Districts within the MSB.”

The Mat-Su borough has grown by 64,398 residents since 1990. Brown told Alaska’s News Source on Thursday that five of the seven overpopulated districts in Alaska are Mat-Su districts. The suit states that the 18 House districts in Anchorage are cumulatively underpopulated by 10.02%. The Mat-Su Borough population grew by 18,086 residents with the release of the latest Census data, while the Anchorage population decreased by 579.

“We’d like to see some provisioning where the deviations are a little bit more favorable and commensurate with the community that’s been growing and continues to grow, and will likely continue to grow into the future,” Brown said. “And when you kind of look at the overpopulated versus underpopulated, it seems to be actually the reverse of what we would expect based on those trends. We can’t rely on someone else to carry water for us, so we went ahead and put the suit out there and it allows us to put our complaint on file, on public record so it’s very clear what it is that we take issue with.”

The suit specifically calls into question House Districts 29 and 30. House District 29 includes Mat-Su communities and continues to stretch east along the Glenn Highway, going as far as to encompass the city of Valdez. The suit argues that it is unfair to include Valdez with communities that have no tie to the Trans Alaska Pipeline.

The suit also takes issue with the decision of the board to include Denali Borough communities as far north as as Clear in District 30, but to put Cantwell with other rural communities that are not along the Parks Highway.

“House District 30 as included in the Final Plan combines organized and unorganized boroughs, rural and remote communities with different social concerns and political needs, geographically divided and culturally and historically distinct areas, areas with no transportation links, and areas with no shared economic activities,” the suit states. “This District ignores logical, municipal, and natural boundaries. The challenges of balancing the multiple constitutional requirements does not absolve the Board of its duty to measure each House District against constitutional standards.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the word “overrepresented” to “overpopulated.”

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