Looking for a few new legislators

Posted: Sunday, October 31, 2010

The League of Women Voters of Alaska encourages voters to weigh the facts of Ballot Measure 1.

At statehood, 1959, the Alaska Constitution mandated 20 senators and 40 representatives to serve in the Alaska Legislature to serve a population at that time of 225,000. The current population of Alaska is 691,000 (in 2008 - 2009) and the number of members in the Alaska Legislature has remained the same, as the population tripled. In 1959, each representative served 5,825 Alaskans; however, in 2010, each representative is asked to represent 17,284 Alaskans. If Ballot Measure 1 is not approved by the voters, the number of voters in each legislative district could increase to approximately 18,000.

If, however, Alaskans approve the proposed constitutional amendment, the increased number of legislative districts will allow the Alaska Redistricting Board to draw four more House districts and two more Senate districts, thereby accommodating the increased population of the urban Railbelt without decreasing the legislative boundaries of the Bush and Southeast Alaska districts.

In the United States, among the nine states with small populations, the average size of their legislative bodies is 134 members, more than twice the size of the Alaska Legislature. Between 1960 and 2006, 29 states have increased the size of their legislatures.

Should the amendment be ratified by Alaska voters, an initial cost of $4 million will be necessary to pay for the costs of having six more legislators, such as the design of necessary office space. After the relocations are in place, the annual cost of the additional legislators is expected to be greatly reduced. Opportunities for increased office space currently exist near the Alaska State Capitol in the Terry Miller Legislative Office Building and the recently renovated Thomas Stewart Building.

A hallmark of democracy is a dedication to representation of the individual.

carolyn V. Brown


• Brown is the president of the Juneau League of Women Voters.

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