Lawsuit filed by Natives over Alaska redistricting plan

JUNEAU — Several Alaska Natives are suing to keep state election officials from implementing a redistricting plan until that plan wins Justice Department approval.

The plaintiffs, in a federal lawsuit filed last week, claim state officials are violating the federal Voting Rights Act by moving forward in implementing a new plan for this year’s elections before the plan wins preclearance from Justice.

The lawsuit names as defendants Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who oversees Alaska elections, and Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai.

Oral arguments on the request for a temporary restraining order were scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

The Alaska Redistricting Board asked DOJ to review the plan after the state Supreme Court last month signed off on it for the 2012 elections. Candidates filed to run based on the boundaries of that plan.

Any plan must pass muster both with the courts and Justice.

Attorneys for the state, in court documents filed Monday, said that if the division continues its election preparations using the redistricting plan, and that plan is ultimately precleared by DOJ, the state will have a “normal” election cycle. If the division is not allowed to continue in its preparations, “the elections may be seriously disrupted, and unnecessarily disrupted, even if the plan is ultimately precleared,” they said.

They also claim that the plaintiffs have not justified their request.

The plaintiffs are H. Robin Samuelsen Jr., of Dillingham, Russell S. Nelson of Dillingham, Vicki Otte, of Anchorage, and Martin Moore, of Emmonak.

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