Alaska’s once-a-decade redistricting process is about to start

The final 2010 redistricting map for Southeast Alaska.

A newly formed committee charged with planning for Alaska’s once-a-decade redistricting process will hold its first meeting this week.

Redistricting is the task of redrawing Alaska’s legislative districts to align with new numbers from the federal census, which also comes once every decade. The process is often politically fraught, with lawsuits filed that challenge the new districts.

Final decisions about where district lines are drawn will be made by a separate redistricting board that’s authorized by the Alaska Constitution. But two decades ago, the Alaska Legislature also created what it calls a “Redistricting Planning Committee,” which is asked to make initial preparations for the board’s work.

Its powers include leasing office space for the board, compiling maps and databases, and acquiring redistricting computer software.

The committee has five members — two appointed by the governor and one each by the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, the House speaker and the Senate president. They include:

• Gov. Mike Dunleavy appointee Jordan Shilling, a former aide to North Pole GOP Sen. John Coghill who now works as a communications specialist in Dunleavy’s office.

• Dunleavy appointee Bethany Marcum, who once worked as an aide to the governor when Dunleavy served in the state Senate and now runs the Alaska Policy Forum, a conservative advocacy group.

• Senate President Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage) appointee Jane Conway, who works as an aide to Giessel.

• House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) appointee T.J. Presley, who works as an aide to Edgmon.

• Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger appointee Jill McLeod, an Anchorage-based attorney for the law firm Dorsey & Whitney who previously worked at ConocoPhillips.

The committee is holding its first meeting Dec. 4 at the court system office in downtown Anchorage.

The constitutionally-authorized redistricting board has not yet been appointed. Its makeup is the same as the planning committee — two appointees by the governor and one each for the House speaker, Senate president and chief justice — though there’s also a requirement that members represent different geographic areas of the state.

The board members must be appointed by Sept. 1.