In Alaska we redraw our election district boundaries every 10 years following the results of the U.S. census. This process ensures that, as population shifts, each Alaskan's vote still counts the same as every other Alaskan's.
Since we became a state in 1959, our population has more than tripled, but the number of legislators has stayed the same. That means legislators have less time to listen to and help each constituent. Our state continues to grow, so we must take action to keep the voice of individual Alaskans from being diluted.
Today, each House district has roughly 16,000 Alaskans, and each Senate district has about 32,000. By 2012 those numbers could be 17,500 and 35,000. No matter how hardworking and dedicated a politician is, that's a lot of individual Alaskans to try to represent. States with similarly sized populations to Alaska have legislatures that are twice as large as ours on average.
We already have districts that are as large as entire states, and without changes some districts will get even bigger. Think of the challenge to one single legislator trying to represent the people in an area larger than Minnesota. It's impossible.
Ballot Measure 1 next week will add four new House districts and two new Senate districts when new lines are drawn. Most of the new districts will be in Southcentral and the Mat-Su, where population growth has been greatest. Without the additional districts, Southeast Alaska will lose an entire seat instead of approximately one half of a seat. Our friends in Bush Alaska would lose more.
Currently, Juneau's population allows us to have two House seats and one Senate seat. But Juneau's population has remained stable since the last redistricting, while the rest of the state has grown. If the Legislature remains at the current size after redistricting, we will have to incorporate other communities into our districts to get enough people. This will water down representation in the Legislature.
This measure is not about increasing the size of the government. It's about increasing Alaskans' voices in their government. Alaska is a growing state in increasingly complicated times. We must not allow our voices to be diluted as our state grows. That's why we're voting for Ballot Measure 1 on Election Day.
Egan is the state senator from District 'B,' which includes Juneau. Joule is the state representative from District 40, which covers Kotzebue.