Judge: Redistricting plan improperly splits Eagle River, Chugiak

Posted: Wednesday, January 02, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Republicans scored a victory Monday in one of their challenges to the state's redistricting plan.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner ruled that the Redistricting Board's plan for House District 16 in Chugiak is not "compact." Rindner ruled on the configuration that splits Eagle River and Chugiak in Southcentral Alaska.

The decision came one week before a trial begins on nine separate challenges to the state's new political map.

"Eagle River is a very, very solid Republican community," said state Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich. "For that reason, it is strictly a representation issue for local individuals rather than a specific incumbency-protection issue."

District 16 was created out of a fast-growing part of the Anchorage bowl and includes Peters Creek and Eklutna. The district has no incumbent House member and portions were taken from districts represented by Reps. Vic Kohring, a Wasilla Republican, and Fred Dyson, an Eagle River Republican.

Republicans said it tended to sprawl across the region.

The attorney for the redistricting board argued the district boundaries followed transportation corridors and geographical features.

Rindner disagreed. The judge said state and federal statutes do not make those demands on the boundaries, but do require the district to be compact.

The five-member Alaska Redistricting Board approved the 2001 map, drawn up with population numbers from the 2000 Census, by a 3-2 vote in June. Board members Vicki Otte and Julian Mason, appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles, joined with Leona Okakok in favor of the plan. Board members Michael Lessmeier and Bert Sharp, appointed by Republican legislative leaders, voted against the new district lines and afterward called the plan blatantly partisan.

The plan pits 20 incumbent Republicans against each other for seven House seats and three Senate seats.

Rindner's decisions are open to an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Besides Republican leaders, the new political map is being challenged by Anchorage, Craig, Valdez, Wasilla, Delta Junction and Aleutians East Borough.

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