The Alaska Redistricting Board announced Friday it intends to begin work on redrawing the state’s voting districts, a week after a Fairbanks Superior Court judge chastised the agency for sitting idle despite a state Supreme Court order to start the process. The board plans to begin the process on Wednesday, the The Associated Press reports, and will shoot for producing a final plan by July 12. Every 10 years, Alaska’s voting lines are ordered redrawn according to the latest U.S. Census data. The redrawing of the state’s voting districts in 2012 sent state elections into a frenzy, with 59 of the 60 seats in the Alaska Legislature up for re-election, and allegations by Democrats that Republicans on the board had reconfigured the state’s voting districts to their advantage. Critics also complained that the new map disenfranchised Alaska Native voters living in rural Alaska.
In December, the Alaska Supreme Court ordered all 40 voting districts to be redrawn once again. The board said in April that it was awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could alter the federal Voting Rights Act requirements that Alaska must adhere to, a decision which could streamline the agency’s redistricting process.
But that isn’t a good enough reason to stall the board’s work, Superior Court judge Michael McConahy said May 30, and delaying further may not provide enough time to successfully redraw the voting districts before the 2014 elections.
“There is no reason to delay this process any further,” he wrote. McConahy also ordered the board to hold public hearings during their revisited redistricting process.