An Anchorage Superior Court judge has become a one-man redistricting committee working on behalf of the Alaska Democratic Party.
Judge Thomas Matthews, who has consistently ruled in favor of Democrats during litigation over Alaska’s new political boundaries, ruled against the Alaska Redistricting Board’s most recent attempt to create a Senate seat in Anchorage that would accommodate all of the wants and desires of constituents, Democrats, Republicans, and the court itself.
Maps for House and Senate districts are redrawn every 10 years to adjust for population shifts. The current mapmaking process, which is a political exercise, started last August but has been in litigation since December. Most court challenges were tossed by the Alaska Supreme Court. Only in contention now is the Eagle River “Senate pairings,” which decides which voters are paired with Eagle River to create a Senate district that has the appropriate number of residents.
After a prior map was tossed by Matthews because it had north Muldoon in the Senate seat that equally represented Eagle River and Muldoon, the redistricting board went back to the drawing board, took public testimony, and drew a new map.
The new map created a district a Hillside district, which is socioeconomically similar, stretching from Eagle River to Girdwood. Democrats and Girdwood residents challenged the map in court.
In his decision released Tuesday, Matthews relied again heavily on the public testimony that was given, rather than the existing process of a redistricting board, which has met and debated maps since August.
Democrats in Anchorage organized over 600 pieces of testimony, some of them being the same people testifying every single day to oppose the map, just as they had opposed the previous map. Only one map will be acceptable to the Democrats, and that is the one that gives them a Senate seat advantage.
The Alaska Redistricting Board will need to make a decision: Will the board appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court or use Map 2 for the current election, as Judge Matthews has demanded? Map 2 is the Democrat-approved map and Matthews has ruled that the election under way must favor the Democrats in Anchorage.