On Thursday, the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted two proposed redistricting maps.
The draft plans can be seen at www.akredistrict.org/maps.
The Alaska Constitution requires adoption of at least one proposed plan within 30 days after the official reporting of the census of the United States. The census data was received by all the states on Aug. 12.
These are not the only maps in the process. Third parties have been working on maps, and those will be reviewed by the board on Sept. 17, with public testimony expected. Some Republican interests are drawing maps, as are Democrats.
“I was pleased the Board came together this week and found consensus on many areas of the state. We adopted two proposed plans today to begin the process of hearing from Alaskans about how they would like their legislative districts to be crafted,” said John Binkley, chairman of the Alaska Redistricting Board, in a statement.
The Alaska Redistricting Board will hold public hearings statewide prior to finalizing the new political boundaries no later than Nov. 10.
The board has met all week, but the public’s ability to monitor the discussions has been severely curtailed by faulty audio and visual equipment. The Friday meeting was canceled, since the draft maps are complete, and the group will meet again on Friday, Sept. 17, to consider third-party maps.
The board found quite a bit of consensus on the two maps but there are areas of disagreement, including:
- The northern line of Bristol Bay region — how far north it should extend.
- Fairbanks and how it expands into Interior districts
- Valdez, about whether it should be paired with Interior villages, Mat-Su or Anchorage.
The maps being worked on right now were the products of Bethany Marcum and Nicole Borromeo, both board members.
Marcum’s map, particularly around the Mat-Su, is more compact and also socio-economically integrated. There was general agreement that Marcum’s and Borromeo’s maps for the Mat-Su are similar. Both of their maps have Whittier and South Knik with Anchorage.
It appears the maps take Nenana out of the Mat-Su region and put it into the Interior. The group has not resolved the Gulf Coast yet — whether to include Cordova with northern Southeast Alaska, or leave it paired with Kodiak; a case can be made either way.
On Thursday, the Democrat group calling itself Alaskans for Fair Redistricting gave testimony concerning the draft plans. The group is represented by Democrats Robin O’Donahue of Fairbanks and David Dunsmore of Anchorage .
While the Democrats had their people ready to testify about districts, the Republicans have not had anyone testify during this entire process started except Republican former party Chairman Randy Ruedrich. Word has spread that former Sen. Cathy Giessel, a Republican dissident, is playing a shadow puppeteer role by directing the lead staff, Peter Torkelson, from behind the scenes.
Sen. Tom Begich testified and has his own map to offer the board. He said the Mat-Su and Anchorage are underpopulated. Begich said it is imperative that Mat-Su and Anchorage draw population from outside their boundaries, not from each other. Begich agreed that adding Yakutat to Southeast Alaska makes sense, and would put Valdez with Kodiak and Cordova with the Interior. Begich was representing Senate Democratic Caucus.
The board appeared to disagree with Begich on some of his assertions.
Chairman John Binkley appeared to be tiring of the process on Thursday, calling it “tedious,” and said that Marcum was “driving the bus.”
Marcum was working hard to keep Eagle River compact and the group was trying to make slight adjustments to all of the Anchorage districts on Marcum’s map to accommodate the loss in the northernmost district of the South Knik.
Borromeo, general counsel for the Alaska Federation of Natives, was adamant that they not work from a pre-made map; she wants to start from scratch for Anchorage, which would advantage her Democrat interests. At this point in the meeting she refused to participate and said she would watch watch they do, indicating this may be a point for her allies to mount a legal challenge.
Binkley reiterated that they were, indeed, starting with fresh maps.
Borromeo also disagreed with the role and duties of the board chair, saying he has been unfair about public testimony, not giving equal time, and giving disparate treatment. That complaint didn’t hold water since all but one of the testifiers has represented Democrat interests.
She said some board members get the benefit of counsel, while others do not. She said she felt shafted and that Binkley has been inconsistent. Borromeo was upset by an email from Monday that suggested the board set broad policy, such as where to put Valdez, and have the staff draw the maps, rather than draw them as a group exercise.
Borromeo further complained that Binkley found that process “tedious.” She said people should keep those thoughts to themselves. At that point, Binkley apologized and said “I’ll try to do better.”
Borromeo continued to complain about small-group side discussions, and said too many unilateral actions have been taken.
After an at-ease, Borromeo acknowledged that she shut down earlier and blamed her Athabaskan heritage for her temper, which had gotten the best of her. She then re-engaged with the map process that was finalizing and began working with Marcum on variations on the Anchorage districts. Borromeo’s map variations greatly swung to help Democrats, and with planted Democrats testifying, it may result in a more Democrat-leaning Anchorage.
By the end of Friday, the public will be able to see which incumbents might be paired with each other in these draft maps, with PDF documents being released by the end of the day.