Board critics appeal

State's high court will decide whether plan by redistricting panel is valid

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Attorneys representing seven municipalities plus individual Alaskans took their last shots at the state redistricting plan Friday before the Alaska Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is to rule on the plan by April 1.

In a hearing that stretched beyond the scheduled two hours, attorneys told justices what they thought was wrong with the plan formulated by the five-member redistricting board or what was wrong with changes made by Anchorage trial judge Mark Rindner.

As required by the Alaska Constitution, the five-member redistricting board in June used new population figures to redraw political districts.

The board's map was challenged by the Republican Party, the cities of Anchorage, Valdez, Wasilla, Cordova and Craig, and the Aleutians East and the Lake and Peninsula boroughs.

After a trial that included 63 witnesses, Judge Rindner ruled Feb. 1 that House District 16 in Chugiak failed to meet state constitutional requirements because it was not compact. He also ruled that House District 12, which includes part of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and all of the Denali Borough, did not have enough in common socially and economically.

Rindner rejected all other challenges to the plan.

Lawyer Michael White, representing Republicans, said the board had no justification or reason for an appendage on District 16 that reached out to lump together incumbent GOP legislators.

In all, the plan pits 20 Republicans against each other. The statistical odds of that happening is three-hundredths of a percent, White said.

He said Republican-friendly districts in south Anchorage ended up with sizes above the House District target population of 15,673, thus diluting voter strength.

"The deviations were systematic and not random," White said.

He said the fundamental rights of equal protection should be protected by the Supreme Court. "It dilutes the constitutional rights of each voter," White said.

Attorney Philip Volland, representing the board, said redistricting was hard enough without making board members adhere to demands made by the communities objecting to the plan.

"I urge you not to make it more challenging," Volland told the justices.

The plan must be considered from a statewide perspective, he said.

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