Alaska Editorial: Back to work

This editorial first ran in the Ketchikan Daily News:

Beginning this week, the Alaska Redistricting Board will get down to brass tacks coming up with a new election-district map as ordered by the court, working toward public hearings — beginning with one in Anchorage by month’s end — and tentatively coming up with a new redistricting plan by July 12.

It is going to come up with what it calls a Hickel Plan, after the process used in an earlier case. The board must redraw the map with boundaries for voting districts for the 2014 elections, focusing on meeting the state constitution’s strictures.

Afterwards, the board must ensure the proposal meets federal voting rights requirements. In Alaska’s case, that means the districts’ configuration can’t dilute the ability of Alaska Natives to elect candidates.

If the plan, after they’ve reviewed it and made sure it meets state constitutional requirements, does not meet the federal Voting Rights Act as well, then they can change the plan to meet federal law as well. According to a court ruling, meeting the voting rights requirement is the only reason they can veer from state constitutional requirements.

The board begins Thursday and will work for a week on the plan.

That body won’t be the only group working on a plan. Third parties may also do so, and must submit their proposals by June 21. The board says that any individual, group or organization that intends to submit a Hickel Plan — and that’s the requirement — must provide “reasonable advance notice” to the board’s staff in Anchorage, notifying them by phone, fax or email.

The board wants public input as it works.

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