For a third time, the Alaska Supreme Court emphasized deference to state law while nixing the latest congressional district lines. Alaska’s redistricting board began redrawing congressional districts in 2011 after receiving data from the 2010 U.S. Census. A federal voting rights expert urged the board to draw district boundaries with a focus on creating “effective” Native districts that give Natives the ability to elect candidates of their own choosing. But when this map led to a slew of lawsuits, a Fairbanks superior court judge threw it out and found that four of the proposed House districts unnecessarily deviated from state constitutional requirements.
The Alaska Supreme Court upheld that decision last March and ordered the board to design its reapportionment plan based on requirements of the state constitution and then test the plan against the Voting Rights Act (VRA) rather than the reverse.
That process – which the Alaska Supreme Court laid out in the 1992 decision Hickel v. Southeast Conference – provides the board “with defined procedural steps that, when followed, ensure redistricting satisfies federal law without doing unnecessary violence to the Alaska constitution,” according to the court’s decision last year.
Though an interim redistricting plan took effect for the 2012 elections in November, the court ordered the board to follow the Hickel process in its future deliberations.
Full Article: Courthouse News Service.