The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the state’s new political boundaries be redrawn with greater deference to the Alaska Constitution. The decision comes just one day after the court heard arguments in the case. The court, in its decision, commends the Alaska Redistricting Board for its work, saying the record shows the board tried to weigh competing constitutional and statutory provisions. But it pointed to an earlier case, in which the court found that while compliance with a federal voting rights law takes precedence over compliance with the state constitution, the voting law need not be elevated in such a way that the requirements of the constitution are unnecessarily compromised.
Wednesday’s decision says the board must adhere to the process laid out in that case, Hickel v. Southeast Conference. The decision says the board must design a plan focusing on the constitutional requirements, then determine if it complies with federal law. If it doesn’t comply, the board is to make revisions deviating from the constitution when deviation is the only means available to meet the federal voting act requirements.
Because the board didn’t follow the process, the court said the board cannot meaningfully demonstrate that the plan’s constitutional deficiencies were necessitated by the federal voting rights act. And, the decision said, the court cannot reliably decide the question.