Trial begins over challenges to Alaska redistricting plan

People look at maps hanging on a wall.
Juneau residents study map proposals by the Alaska Redistricting Board at an open house event on Sept. 27. The board is hosting public hearings across the state and stopped in Anchorage on Monday. (Lyndsey Brollini/KTOO)

Trial began Friday in a consolidated case that challenges Alaska’s newly redrawn political boundaries.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews, who is overseeing the case, earlier this month outlined plans for an 11-day trial, with each of the five groups of plaintiffs bringing challenges allotted a day, intervening parties allotted one day and attorneys for the Alaska Redistricting Board allocated five total days. The trial is taking place via videoconference.

Following a discussion of procedural matters, the trial began with questioning of witnesses related to a case challenging the board’s decision to split conservative Eagle River into two Senate districts.

Three Anchorage residents challenged pairing part of Anchorage’s Muldoon area with an Eagle River district and pairing an Anchorage district that includes a military base with another Eagle River district. Two House districts equal one Senate district.

Attorneys for the residents, in court documents, said there was “overwhelming” public testimony in opposition to splitting up Eagle River. They also said the Senate pairings ignore demographic, economic and geographic differences between the communities.

Matthews previously wrote that since parties are providing direct testimony through affidavits, much of the trial would feature cross-examination of witnesses.

Additional challenges to the maps were filed by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; Skagway; Valdez and Calista Corp.

The redistricting board was charged with rewriting the state’s political boundaries after the 2020 census. The board voted 3-2 in November to adopt the new maps for state House and Senate districts.

The outcome of this trial could be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

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