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Redistricting arguments made at Alaska Supreme Court

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 9:09 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Arguments were heard Friday in the Alaska Supreme Court regarding multiple appeals involving the Alaska Redistricting Board and its plan for new voting districts, both challenging and defending parts of a previous decision by a state judge.

Before the state’s highest court today were three cases heard in regard to the redistricting maps. Those include the district pairings in the northeast Anchorage and Eagle River areas, Skagway being included in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley, and a complaint that the growing population of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is being under-represented.

In February, an Anchorage Superior Court judge struck down the Senate map that paired East Anchorage with Eagle River, as well as the House District that paired Skagway with Mendenall Valley.

One lawsuit filed after the maps were finalized by the redistricting board claimed that the northeast Anchorage and Eagle River areas should not be combined in a single senate district — District K — because the influence of the voters in East Anchorage will be diluted. Holly Wells, the counsel for those who filed the lawsuit for District K, suggested gerrymandering may be involved.

“It was done without regard for the dilutive effect on East Anchorage and most specifically South Muldoon,” Wells said.

Figures from the 2021 Census show the Mat-Su area has the fastest growing population in the state. The borough’s suit argues that the board erred in the drawing of district maps and will leave the Mat-Su under represented, and it took issue with Mat-Su districts being included with Valdez. Stacy Stone, the Mat-Su borough attorney, argued that the areas were too different.

“They did not want to paired together and they did not consider themselves socioeconomically integrated. We have a huge fight for resources with regard to rail road systems and road systems versus marine highway coastal community issues and those have been brought up before,” said Stone.

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 ties closer with downtown Juneau, which is in a separate district.

The Alaska Supreme Court has between now and April 1 to consider all arguments and issue a final decision. Given the June 1 filing deadline for Alaska state candidates, the board could be required to redraw its maps quickly.

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