City changes election districts

Thane, North Douglas to move into District 1 for Assembly elections

Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2003

The Juneau Assembly approved an ordinance Monday night redrawing two city election districts before the next time voters head to the polls.

Outgoing City Attorney John Corso told the Assembly four months ago the city is required to make adjustments to the districts to reflect a change in Juneau's population distribution shown in the 2000 census.

The population of Assembly District 1, which includes downtown Juneau and Douglas, is 13,484 people, according to state records.

The District 2 population, which includes the Mendenhall Valley, Auke Bay, Thane and North Douglas, is 17,227.

To correct the disparity, the election ordinance would move Thane and North Douglas to District 1, increasing that district's population to 15,203. The population of District 2 would decrease to 15,508.

The new Assembly districts would be identical to the districts used in elections for the Alaska Legislature.

The ordinance also will change the election district code so the populations of the two districts do not deviate by more than 10 percent. Current code allows the two populations to deviate by 15 percent, said City Clerk Laurie Sica.

The district lines dictate where a city Assembly candidate for either district has to live when running for the Assembly. Juneau's Assembly has two area-wide seats and three seats from each of its two districts. All Juneau voters vote for area-wide candidates and candidates from both districts.

Juneau residents barely will notice the change in boundary districts, said City Attorney John Hartle.

"We'll all get to vote for the same people we would ever get to vote for," he said. "Only the boundary line for the two districts is changing."

The new ordinance also repeals the city code that requires city Assembly members to run for re-election when their districts change.

All six Assembly members present at the meeting - Jim Powell, Jeannie Johnson, Merrill Sanford, Randy Wanamaker, Dale Anderson and Ken Koelsch - voted to pass the ordinance.

The U.S. Justice Department has 60 days to ensure the redistricting complies with federal voting standards, Sica said.

Downtown Juneau resident Dennis Harris expressed dissatisfaction with what he called "a lousy, lousy ordinance."

He introduced an initiative to create eight geographic districts, mandate Assembly members run from the district they live in and require members be elected only by the people they represent.

Powell addressed Harris's concerns by urging the Assembly to seriously consider the initiative before the next redistricting.

The city's redistricting ordinance must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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