After just two days of work, the Alaska Redistricting Board has adopted a new election district plan that members believe complies with the state constitution. The adoption of the new plan is the first step to comply with an order from the Alaska Supreme Court, which earlier this month found the board hadn’t followed the proper process in drawing its original plan. The court sent the board back to the drawing table to follow guidelines laid out by its 1992 ruling in an earlier election redistricting case, Hickel vs. Southeast Conference. The “Hickel process” requires the board to first draw a plan that complies with the constitution before making changes for the federal Voting Rights Act. Most changes in the new plan affect Fairbanks and rural districts. Anchorage, Southcentral, Southeast and the North Slope are untouched from the board’s original plan. That’s because the lawsuit that led to the redrawing only focused on districts with constitutional complaints, said Taylor Bickford, the board’s executive director.
“We used the template for all versions of the plan that were unchallenged — in areas we believe we already followed the Hickel process,” he said. “We believe this plan complies with the constitution.” In the new plan, parts of Ester and Goldstream Valley remain peeled off to prop up population in an Interior rural district. This time, though, the area has been added to the newly drawn House District 37, which wraps around the Fairbanks North Star Borough much like the former House District 6. The House seat is held by Republican Rep. Alan Dick.
Bickford said he believes that the new plan will pass constitutional muster because urban population had to be taken from somewhere in order to prop up declining population in rural districts. House District 37, along with many other rural districts, are at the minimum population needed for a House district, he said.
Full Article: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.