Effort to redraw districts begins

19 maps generated in second attempt at new election boundaries

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2002

Nineteen potential redistricting plans were on the table late this morning as a state panel started a second round of deliberations on a new legislative map.

The Alaska Supreme Court last month struck down the previous plan, which would have pitted up to 20 Republican incumbents against each other in the August primary election.

The Alaska Redistricting Board reconvened in Juneau today to come up with a new plan that addresses the court's concerns.

The court said the plan was unconstitutional because of excessive population deviations among Anchorage districts, a "noncompact" shape for an Eagle River district, low population in the Aleutians

district and a failure to justify the elongated Southeast islands, or "iceworm," district.

The justices said the board should review a House district that includes part of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and all of the Denali Borough, which may be a pairing of areas that are socially and economically dissimilar. Also up for review is a district linking part of Anchorage with Valdez.

The Redistricting Board's staff generated 10 possible maps, while nine more were submitted.

Those submitting plans were the Municipality of Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, Democrat-appointed Redistricting Board member Julian Mason and Alaskans for Fair Redistricting, a Democrat- and Native-led coalition that largely drafted the plan that was struck down by the court.

One idea under early consideration had a House district extending from Valdez to Sitka. Juneau districts aren't expected to change significantly.

Legislators are backing $50,000 in emergency funds for the board to continue its work. Although it doesn't cover contested legal fees, it's enough to keep staff on the job, Executive Director Gordon Harrison said today. But the board is meeting under time pressure, with a June 1 filing deadline for legislative candidates.

The redistricting process, as always, has been sharply political. Democrat appointees hold a 3-2 edge on the board, and partisan arguments have occurred on most board business.

New legislative boundaries are required every 10 years following the federal Census.

Bill McAllister can be reached at billm@juneauempire.com.

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