Alaska Redistricting Board’s series of road shows begins this week

An aerial view of a town bordered by mountains and water.
Juneau’s Aak’w Village District, formerly the Willoughby District, on June 25, 2019. (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

The state board in charge of redrawing Alaska’s legislative districts is kicking off a series of open house-style public hearings on proposed maps this week in Juneau.

At Centennial Hall and future venues around the state, staff with the Alaska Redistricting Board will have easels set up with blown up maps showing six different proposals the board is considering. There will be many ways for people to formally share their opinions with the board: forms for writing by hand, recording devices for oral testimony, laptops and QR codes for smartphones.

TJ Presley is the deputy director for the Alaska Redistricting Board. He said the format is designed to encourage more interactivity and to be a safer alternative to traditional public hearings during the pandemic.

“It allows people to come and go as they please, look at a map, look at all six maps, give us their comments and leave,” Presley said. “As opposed to having, you know, 100 members of the community stuffed into one room, sitting in chairs right next to each other for a full two hours.”

Presley said the board is especially looking for comments in the context of its mission laid out in the Alaska Constitution.

“Speaking about compactness, contiguity and socio-economic integration, as well as, you know, equal population for each district — those are the factors the board has been drawing with and that they would probably appreciate hearing things in that context,” Presley said.

Monday’s hearing in Juneau is scheduled from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Ballroom 3 of Centennial Hall. Open houses and public hearings are also scheduled next week in HainesSitka and Valdez. Many more all over the state will be held before the redistricting board’s Nov. 10 deadline to adopt a final plan.

The maps and a form for submitting comments are also available on the Alaska Redistricting Board website, www.akredistrict.org. Comments can also be emailed to testimony@akredistrict.org.

The board is sharing six proposed plans in these open houses. The board made two of them. The other four were submitted by third-party groups.

But Presley said the board’s final decision is not bound by these six proposals — it’s still free to go in another direction.

Since at least 1970, every time Alaska’s legislative district lines have been redrawn, lawsuits have followed and the courts have played a role in the final lines.

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Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

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