Plaintiffs in Alaska redistricting lawsuit ask court to reject new Senate map that divides Eagle River

Plaintiffs in Alaska redistricting lawsuit ask court to reject new Senate map that divides Eagle River.
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 4:59 PM AKDT|Updated: Apr. 18, 2022 at 5:57 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The plaintiffs who originally sued over an Anchorage Senate district map that paired parts of Eagle River with East Anchorage are asking an Anchorage Superior Court judge to reject a new amended version of that map, which they argue has the same legal issues.

A group of plaintiffs from East Anchorage sued in December after the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted a map of Senate District K that they argued would magnify the political influence of Eagle River and dilute the influence of East Anchorage voters.

The Alaska Supreme Court struck down the map as “unconstitutional political gerrymander” last month, and required the board to redraw it. The state’s highest court ruled that the map boundaries violated equal protection under the Alaska Constitution.

In redrawing the Senate district boundaries, the Alaska Redistricting Board chose between two options: one called Option 2 that would have kept Eagle River intact with a single Senate seat, and another called Option 3B that paired the eastern part of Eagle River with the Girdwood House District, and the western side of Eagle River with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Government Hill and parts of downtown Anchorage.

The board in a 3-2 vote last week approved the amended map option that splits Eagle River between two Senate seats, over objections that the amended version had the same issues as the original.

The plaintiffs’ motion, filed Monday, asks the Superior Court to reject the new amended Senate map, and to substitute it with the “Option 2″ map that keeps Eagle River intact.

“Despite clear direction from the Alaska Supreme Court and the Alaska Superior Court, and repeated objections from East Anchorage Plaintiffs, the public, and even members of the Board itself, the Board corrected only one of the two senate pairings that resulted in the unconstitutional Senate District K,” the motion reads. “As a result, the Board preserved, and in many ways exacerbated, the unconstitutional political gerrymander rejected by this Court.”

Alternatively, the motion asks that the Superior Court modifies its order to “reiterate the Board’s obligation to correct its constitutional error,” and provide deadlines for the district map to be redrawn.

While the board was deciding between the two new map options, several members of the public and public figures called in to oppose the option that ended up being adopted. Under Option 3B which divides Eagle River, Republican Sens. Lora Reinbold and Roger Holland would have to run against each other with Eagle River and Girdwood combined into one Senate district.

Reinbold called the map “absolutely ridiculous.”

“Permitting the Board to continue this gerrymander while merely shifting the resulting dilution and effect to alternate voters does not correct the error,” the motion filed by the plaintiffs states. “The Board’s intent has been proven and found unlawful.”

Advocates of the map that pairs part of Eagle River with Girdwood have said that the two communities are similar, and that they’ve been included in the same Senate district before.

Clarification: This article has been updated to more thoroughly describe the parts of Anchorage that an amended Senate District K map pairs with parts of Eagle River, which include JBER, Government Hill and parts of downtown Anchorage.

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