Suit Challenging Redistricting Plan Moves Forward

A suit challenging Alaska’ proposed new voting district map is moving ahead, despite federal approval of the redistricting plan. The Fairbanks North Star borough, two local residents, and the city of Petersburg have sued to halt the plan. Plaintiffs are opposed to districts they say disenfranchise local voters. Fairbanks Borough Attorney Jill Dolan says last week’s pre-clearing of the plan by the U.S. Department of Justice is independent of the state court process.

Fairbanks plaintiffs are opposed to the plan’s grouping of areas of Ester and the Gold Stream Valley into a voting district that stretches to western Alaska.  The State Redistricting Board has to come up with a plan that protects the Alaska Native vote as required by the federal law, and meets state constitutional stipulations requiring compact and socio economically homogenous voter districts.  Board Executive Director Taylor Bickford says Alaska is one of nine states covered by the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the board made adhering to it a priority.

Bickford calls federal approval of the Alaska plan a milestone, but the borough’s Dolan believes the redistricting board made procedural errors in putting together the new Alaska voting district map.

Dolan says the state court has determined that the municipalities have standing, and the normal  discovery process is proceeding in anticipation of a Jan. 9 trial.  She says a report from a voting rights expert prepared for the plaintiffs, was due Monday.

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