Judge winnows districting claims

Single voting district for military bases does not break Alaska law

Posted: Friday, December 21, 2001

ANCHORAGE - A claim that the military in Anchorage has been illegally deprived of political clout by the state's new redistricting plan was dismissed Thursday.

In addition, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner dismissed a claim that the people of Delta Junction have a constitutional right to be in a single election district.

The dismissals came in a hearing as Rindner tried to dispose of objections to the redistricting plan, clearing the way for trial next month on nine separate challenges to the state's new political map. The lines, based on the 2000 census data, were drawn earlier this year by the Alaska Redistricting Board.

The Redistricting Board deliberately put Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson into a single district to limit their influence, attorney Ken Jacobus said.

Putting the bases into one district reduces the number of civilians in that district and unacceptably reduces the pool of possible candidates to run for the seat, Jacobus said. Active members of the military aren't allowed to run for office and their spouses rarely do, he said.

But Rindner said voters in the military are just like any other voters.

Jacobus also argued that what little political power Delta Junction has would be diluted by being split and placed in separate districts.

But Rindner said it's legal to divide the town as long as both of the new districts meet the usual requirements for a district. Rindner left for trial the question of whether the new districts measure up to the criteria.

Also left undecided was the question about the new District 16, which includes Peters Creek, Chugiak and part of Eagle River.

A group of plaintiffs including Republican Party head Randy Ruedrich and state Sen. Rick Halford claims the board deliberately gerrymandered Republican incumbents Fred Dyson and Pete Kott into a single district, leaving a weird-shaped area along its boundary, which became District 16.

Rindner took the matter under advisement.

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