Alaska election officials should not be barred from implementing the new redistricting plan because a requirement that the plan be approved by the federal government is unconstitutional, attorneys for the state contend. A federal three-judge panel is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday in the case brought by several Alaska Natives, who want the state barred from implementing the plan until the U.S. Justice Department weighs in on it. Justice has about a month yet to do so. Alaska’s primary is scheduled for Aug. 28. A divided Alaska Supreme Court in May approved use of the plan for this year’s elections, but any plan must pass muster both with the courts and Justice.
Alaska is among the states required to submit redistricting plans or proposed election changes to Justice for review to ensure the plans aren’t discriminatory. But attorneys for the state in court filings say this requirement is unconstitutional and want the judges to deny the plaintiffs’ request. The portion of the federal voting rights act requiring federal approval of such things as changes in polling locations or wording on forms is an “unnecessary, burdensome and unconstitutional” intrusion into state elections, said Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who oversees Alaska elections and is a defendant in the case. “Congress has no basis to micromanage Alaska’s elections,” he said in a written statement. “It’s time to get out from under this yoke.”