Alaska Redistricting Board approves new Anchorage Senate map over accusations of gerrymandering
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a 3-2 vote, the Alaska Redistricting Board has approved a new Senate map for Anchorage over accusations of gerrymandering. It divides Eagle River between two Senate seats, and keeps the military community near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson intact in one.
The Alaska Supreme Court struck down a previous board map in March that paired parts of East Anchorage with Eagle River as a “political gerrymander.” There were arguments during Wednesday’s meeting that this latest map has the same problems, and that a trip to the courts would again be inevitable.
The new map, approved by the board’s three conservative members, groups the eastern side of Eagle River with a South Anchorage district that stretches down to Girdwood. Advocates of that pairing said the two communities are similar and noted that they’ve been in the same Senate district in the past.
Bethany Marcum, a board member appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, also noted Anchorage’s municipal maps are considering similar proposals. She said the new map allows the military community around JBER to stay together in a separate Senate seat, instead of being divided between two.
There have been long and heated debates by board members, and by Alaskans calling into meetings, about what to do with Eagle River. An alternative map, rejected along the same voting lines, would have kept the solidly Republican community in one Senate district.
That’s the map version that members of the Anchorage Assembly voted to support at their Tuesday night meeting, though Mayor Dave Bronson later vetoed that resolution.
Nicole Borromeo, a redistricting board member appointed by former House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, argued that is what the court ordered. She said that Alaska’s courts should resolve the state’s Senate map because the board has been “derelict” in its duty.
The new map would see incumbent Republican Sens. Lora Reinbold and Roger Holland running against each other. Both senators called into a Saturday board meeting to oppose the new Eagle River-Girdwood Senate seat, calling it “absolutely ridiculous.”
The board wrapped up its work and formally approved the new map on Wednesday afternoon. Alaskans can file a court challenge within 30 days.
Clarification: This article has been updated to remove a political descriptor for two of the Alaska Redistricting Board members and clarify that an alternative map was rejected along the same voting lines that the new map was approved by.
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