Last week, a superior court judge scolded the redistricting board, saying that it was unnecessarily holding up the redrawing of the state’s political boundaries. Now, Democratic lawmakers are calling for non-partisan “masters” to step in and guide the redistricting process.
The five-person redistricting board is made up of political appointees, and Republican leaders got to choose four of those seats this cycle. Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat, says that a politicized process has resulted in delays.
“I guess we wanted to give the board the opportunity to do the right thing, but they’ve refused so many times now that it seems seems unlikely right thing in the future. So, now it’s time to get a master appointed, get neutral lines drawn that comply with the Alaska State Constitution, and let the next election go forward under a plan that’s constitutional.”
French says there’s precedent for getting independent experts involved. The courts have appointed masters to steer the redistricting process in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. But French sees this as just a short-term fix. In the past, he’s put forward legislation to create a non-partisan redistricting board, and he’s considering doing that again next session.
Bob Brodie serves on the redistricting board, and he doesn’t think an intervention is necessary. He says the board will meet this Friday to address the Superior Court’s criticisms.
“The judge seemed to think that we need to get on a faster track, and we’re prepared to do that. We’re just going to have to see how it works with everybody’s schedule.”
The board had been waiting on a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court over whether the state needed to meet federal requirements to preserve Alaska Native political influence, but Brodie says the board will consider drawing the maps before that. He adds that the board is also open to having public meetings after they release their map — another concern of the Superior Court.
The redistricting process has been going on for almost three years now. The court system rejected earlier plans from the board for addressing federal requirements before state requirements. A provisional map was used in the last election, where Democrats and members of the Senate’s bipartisan coalition fared poorly.