The Alaska Redistricting Board has gone once again to the Alaska Supreme Court, this time asking the justices to clarify whether an earlier ruling requires it to redraw all of Alaska’s legislative districts from scratch. But while the board waits to hear if the court responds, it is doing little else. An attorney representing opponents of the previous redistricting plan has accused the board of wasting so much time that the 2014 election may have to be held under the same interim districts that yielded one-party rule in Juneau in the 2012 election. “They should get started sooner rather than later,” said Fairbanks attorney Jason Gazewood, representing two Fairbanks-area voters who successfully challenged the board’s 2012 districts in their area and fear a new plan will once again have constitutional flaws.
“We’d like a decision in this process so you can get some reasoned judicial response to it. Otherwise, we’re going to wind up in the same situation we were in before,” Gazewood said.
Board chairman John Torgerson, a Republican appointed by Gov. Sean Parnell, said there was adequate time for the board to accomplish its work. But he said the board “was still looking” to hire an expert in computer-mapping software, as it announced it would do at its last meeting March 14. And he said there were still no plans to hire an executive director to fill a position that has been vacant since Oct. 12.
Torgerson, a former state senator from Kasilof, said the board was waiting out a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case brought by Shelby County, Ala., challenging a section of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The case could affect Alaska because like Shelby County, the entire state of Alaska must get authorization from the U.S. Justice Department before making any changes to its voting system, including redistricting.