Alaska Republican Party Chair Randy Ruedrich said he’s been working on redistricting non-stop for months, trying to draft a map of state legislative districts which will protect Alaska Native influence in the Alaska Legislature.
“To be respectful of the wishes of the Alaska Native people, I believe, is mandatory,” he said.
Speaking to the Alaska Federation of Republican Women at the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, Ruedrich said Southeast’s failure to grow as fast as the rest of the state meant it would lose representation, and that made it more difficult to create a Native majority district.
He said he’s managed to draw a “Native-influenced” district he feels will comply with the demands of the federal Voting Rights Act for Southeast.
The old “iceworm” district made a Native-majority district by stringing together Southeast’s Native villages and stretching through Yakutat into the Interior to link together Native villages there.
The new district, Ruedrich said, stretches down though Southeast, avoiding Juneau and Sitka and wrapping south of Ketchikan but not including that hub city.
“This is no longer the iceworm, this is a fishhook,” he said.
Native influence would be about 35 percent, which he said would likely meet federal approval.
“I believe it is fully compliant with the Voting Rights Act,” he said.
The largest city in that district would be Petersburg, along with Wrangell, Hoonah, Kake, Angoon and Metlakatla.
That looks like it would make a district dominated by Petersburg’s mostly non-Native population, but that’s not the way Ruedrich sees it.
“Petersburg has a significant percentage of Natives,” he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Petersburg’s population of just under 3,000 has about 90 Alaska Native or American Indian residents, or about 3 percent. That’s the lowest of any of Southeast’s larger communities.
The plan Ruedrich is pushing, officially proposed by Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, would also make changes to the Alaska Redistricting Board’s plan for Juneau.
Among the most significant is to move the boundary between Juneau’s downtown and valley seats south, so Switzer Creek would become part of the valley seat, he said.
The Alaska Redistricting Board must release its draft plan by mid-June and a final plan by October, but Ruedrich said he expects lawsuits to be filed during the summer, which will delay final adoption until next spring.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.