Alaska’s Political Lineup
A commission must report a plan 90 days after the official census data is received.
Who’s in Charge of Redistricting?
A five-member, civilian Redistricting Board draws state legislative districts (there is only one U.S. House district). Two members are appointed to the commission by the governor, two by the legislature, and one by the Chief Justice of Alaska’s highest court. All four regions of the state must be represented on the committee and no state employees or state officials may be commission members. The governor has no veto power over the plan.
Under the State Constitution, as amended in 1998, the Board must publish a preliminary plan within 30 days of receiving census figures and conduct open meetings and public hearings. It has also set up a website with a schedule of hearings and draft plans .
Alaska’s interior is sparsely populated, despite comprising a large percentage of the state geographically. The state legislature has gone from leaning Democrat at the start of the decade to heavily Republican. The change to a redistricting commission was designed in part to prevent the Democratic governor from seeking to reverse those gains in redistricting. The majority of Alaska voters are not affiliated with a political party. Given that Alaska has only an at-large U.S. House representative, congressional redistricting is not a factor.
A suit was filed shortly after the 1991 redistricting plan, challenging the governor's state legislative district plan. The Alaska state Supreme Court found that the plan's attempt to combine certain native populations violated the state constitution's anti-gerrymandering provisions. The court stipulated that the anti-gerrymandering requirements under the state constitution may only be subordinated to avoid violation of the Voting Rights Act. The Department of Justice is weighing whether to pre-clear the anti-sampling law passed in 1999.
There was a significant change made in 1998, when a Redistricting Board was established by House Joint Resolution 44. Prior to this change, redistricting was conducted by the Governor. The Redistricting Board is appointed by the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. The legislature also passed Senate Bill 99, which prohibited the use of census sampling figures for redistricting purposes and outlawed practices used to discount members of the Armed Forces in Alaska. (In the 1960s, members of military services were not counted in the census. In the 1970s they were counted as 11% of a human being, and in the 80's as 35%. This new law, which passed in 1999 requires military personnel to be counted fully).
James L. Baldwin