What the Supreme Court’s Redistricting Decision Means For Alaska

The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the right of citizens to make changes to the congressional redistricting process through initiatives.

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The Monday decision has no tangible impact on Alaska at the federal level. With one congressional district for the whole state, it’s impossible to gerrymander Alaska when it comes to national representation. But an attorney who has handled state-level redistricting litigation thinks the decision could draw more attention to how political lines for the Legislature are drawn. Jason Gazewood says the non-partisan Arizona process that was upheld could “serve as a model for Alaska.”

“To the extent that Arizona board created a board that was designed to be nonpartisan in how they chose election districts, Alaska could really learn a lot from that lesson,” says Gazewood. “Alaska’s choice process is really driven by partisan interests.”

Arizona voters established an independent redistricting commission out of concern that political parties were gaming the system to increase their representation in Congress. In Alaska, the lines for the state Legislature are set by a board picked out mostly by elected politicians. Gazewood says there’s an incentive to consolidate power, rather than put voters in districts that best represent their views or interests.

“You know, you’ve got presiding officer of the House, presiding officer of the Senate making decisions about who’s on the board. The governor making choices,” says Gazewood. “So, really, these are decisions that are motivated by politics in a lot of ways.”

It would take an amendment to the Alaska Constitution to change the redistricting process, which would involve a vote of the people.

It took Alaska three years to finalize its maps in the last redistricting cycle.