Redistricting Plan Goes Back To The Drawing Board

It’s back to the drawing board for the Alaska Redistricting plan, after a state Superior Court decision sent an “amended” plan back to the panel last week.  The state’s Redistricting Board met Tuesday to deal with the latest court rejection of the map of Alaska voting districts.

After a brief meeting, most of it in executive session today (Tuesday), the state’s Redistricting Board decided to take their voting plan back to the courts. Redistricting Board executive director Taylor Bickford says the next step is the Alaska Supreme Court, where the Board will be asking the high court to overturn the Superior Court decision and adapt the “amended plan.”

“So the board decided to appeal the April 20th decision. We will need to file that by the end of the week, so our legal team will spend the next few days putting that appeal together. The other thing the board decided to do was authorize legal counsel to start preparing the petition to the court to use the interim plan for 20102.”

He says the Board Chair, John Torgerson, will decide if and when the petition is filed. If accepted by the court, the Board’s first plan would be used for this year’s election.

Bickford says it’s likely that the petition will be filed because it’s too late for the panel to meet a June first deadline to draw up a map that meets state court approval.

“We know that given the time line at this point it’s gonna be impossible to get a new plan implemented in time. Quite frankly, we probably did not have enough time after the Supreme Court’s original ruling, just given the length of time it takes to get approval from the (federal) Justice Department. And so that’s something that really is out of our control. Every redistricting plan in the state’s history has always been thrown back by the Supreme Court and, in our case, because we were asked to change the Native districts, we were put in this uncomfortable position of having to come up with a new plan that would also need federal pre-clearance. ”

Last week, a Superior Court judge ruled that the Board needs to draw a redistricting plan in which every district complies with the so-called Hickel process, which ensures that the board draw up a reapportionment plan based on the requirements of the Alaska Constitution.

Bickford says the litigation process is about the interplay between the state Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

“And there’s inherently a conflict there. And so, we got pre-clearance from the federal government this fall, they said ‘you did your job’ and now what the state court is saying is that you’ve gone to far in favor of the federal Voting Rights Act. And so, it’s a demographics issue, it’s all about the changing population of the state and the fact that the Native districts had to be so significantly changed. ”

The Board had filed the amended plan with the Superior Court in compliance with a March Alaska Supreme Court order. But seven groups filed suit against the amended plan, all saying that the amended plan does not comply with the so – called Hickel process.

Download Audio