The Alaska Redistricting Board takes the stand in defense of Valdez pairing
And ONLY the House maps. They're still split over the outcome of the Senate maps, which could get a shakeup depending on an expanded complaint.
Good evening, Alaska!
In this edition: It’s an all-redistricting edition! The trial continues into its fifth day, hearing from several members of the Alaska Redistricting Board in defense of the decision to pair Valdez with the Mat-Su Borough; we also heard from the executive director about an erroneous document that was quietly updated, raising some serious questions about process and honesty; there’s big potential change looming over the trial; and the path ahead.
Spice level: 🌶️
Legislative day: 10
Redistricting trial day: 5
The hottest legislative news:
The board takes the stand
The members of the Alaska Redistricting Board took the stand this afternoon in defense of the House maps that pair together Valdez with the Mat-Su Borough, an issue that has dominated almost the entirety of this week’s trial time. They faced questions about the socio-economic integration of various communities, their decision-making process and potential outside influences on the maps. While the board has been bitterly divided when it comes to the Senate pairings, they were united in defense of the final House maps with each member today offering some varying degree of board member Melanie Bahnke’s assessment of the plan:
“That is the fairest map that I think has ever been produced,” she said. “Maybe I’m biased, but I think that the board did a wonderful job when it came to the House map.”
The members talked about balancing interests between communities, focusing on the fact that the Alaska Constitution calls for districts to be relatively socio-economically integrated. It’s a key point that produced plenty of eye-test-like comparisons: Is Holy Cross more socio-economically integrated with Russian Mission or is Holy Cross more socio-economically integrated with Glenallen? The board almost universally sided with comparisons that supported the final maps.
Beneath it all is a question of just how much weight the redistricting process should give to the complex differences between Alaska Native communities and how those differences should be weighed against the interests of communities like Valdez.
In breaking from the past actions, this board clearly sought to respect the cultural boundaries of Alaska Native communities as laid out by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the corporation regions established under that legislation. One of the most important elements of the map is the firm boundary separating Interior Athabascan communities from Bering Strait and North Slope communities. Those Interior Athabascan communities would go from being spread out across four different House districts to united under a single district, grouping communities in the Doyon, Limited region with those in the Ahtna, Inc., region.