The Alaska Redistricting Board will appeal a decision by Anchorage Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews, who on Tuesday rejected two parts of the new political boundaries set by the board for Alaska’s Senate and House districts.
The board deliberated in executive session and then voted 3-2 to challenge Matthews’ ruling, which ordered the panel to “take a hard look” at a Senate district that has a piece of Anchorage’s Muldoon neighborhood in the same Senate seat as Eagle River. Matthews also said the board had not given enough weight to the public testimony in Skagway and downtown Juneau — those two neighborhoods want to be paired together and exclude the apparently unhip Mendenhall Valley, a Juneau residential community. Skagway’s mayor said the people in the Valley could not possibly understand the tourism concerns that they share with downtown Juneau. Ironically, most who live in downtown Juneau work in government jobs, and the alignment of Skagway with north Juneau is geographically more compact.
The board’s lawyer, Matt Singer will challenge the rulings on key points of argument.
- The judge gave more weight to public testimony than to the informed decision-making by the Redistricting Board, and in doing so sets a huge precedent. If it stands, whichever group can pack a public hearing room will win, under this logic.
- The ruling by the judge was overly political, because he ignored the political boundary challenges of conservatives in the Mat-Su and Valdez, and ruled in favor of liberal challenges in East Anchorage and Skagway/Downtown Juneau.
- The judge also placed more emphasis on in-person testimony, to the disadvantage of working members of the pubic who cannot attend the public hearings, but send in their written comments.
- The board was not given due process during the court challenge. The judge set the rules of procedure, which only allowed the board to respond to the accusations of the challenging attorneys, and did not afford them the opportunity to explain why they made the decisions.
The board’s challenge to the Alaska Supreme Court must be filed by Thursday, Feb. 17.
Voting against the legal challenge were the two leftists on the board, Nicole Borromeo and Melanie Bahnke. Borromeo was appointed to the board by then-House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, and Bahnke was appointed by then-Supreme Court Justice Joel Bolger. The two women align with Democrats and favor Matthews’ ruling because it gives more power to Democrats.
More information about the redistricting process can be found at this link.