Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Board Approves Draft Plan While I'm Away

I'm at the airport now waiting for our flight to Chicago and then on to Detroit.  Which is why I skipped this morning's Board Meeting. I had a few loose ends to tie up before we left. But the world works in mysterious ways.  After team teaching with Dennis at a UAA sociology class this afternoon about the organization Healing Racism in Anchorage, I went to the Thai Kitchen for dinner.

Before J got there, I recognized a gentleman I'd seen and chatted with at the Redistricting Board meetings recently.  He invited me to join him, I countered that he should join us at a bigger table.  And that's how I found out I didn't miss much at this morning's session where, Randy Ruedrich told us, they talked about Senate pairings.  We had a good dinner and interesting, amiable conversation.  But appears from the website, that the Board passed the draft plan at their afternoon session, which Randy passed up and I was in class.  Here's their official announcement.

Anchorage, AK - Today, the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted draft redistricting plans for the purpose of soliciting public comment before adopting a final plan. Two of the plans are statewide plans prepared by the Board that differ only in the configuration of state senate district pairings. The Board also adopted alternative plans for Southeast Alaska and the Mat-Su region that can fit with either of the Board's statewide plans.

All draft plans adopted by the Board today have been posted for public download at

After the Board's action today, Chairman John Torgerson made the following statement:

"The Board worked hard in an open manner to build draft plans that protect Alaska Native voting rights while providing fair and equal legislative representation for all Alaskans."

Torgerson added that he believed the Board's draft plans achieve lower population deviation ranges than previous redistricting plans, stating that "A fundamental redistricting principle is the one person one vote rule which means that everyone's vote should be weighted equally. I believe our draft plans reflect the Board's commitment to that principle."  

The Board was required by the Alaska Constitution to adopt a draft plan or plans within 30 days of receipt of census data which occurred on March 15, 2011. After receipt of the redistricting data, the Board held hearings in Anchorage, Bethel, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, Kotzebue and Wasilla in addition to a statewide teleconference on March 31st to solicit public opinion.

The Board began drafting redistricting plans in public work sessions at its Anchorage office on April 4th.  

To set the framework for its draft plans, the Board initially focused on rural Alaska. One of the Board's first actions was to formally state their intention to draft a plan that included 9 Alaska Native influence districts. This was done to comply with the Voting Rights Act requirement of avoiding retrogression when drafting new redistricting plans. Retrogression occurs when a redistricting is drawn in a manner that worsens minority voting strength as compared to the previous plan.

In order to solicit a full range of opinions from Alaskans, the Board also adopted plans submitted by private groups as follows: statewide plans from Alaskans for Fair Redistricting, Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting and the Rights Coalition; regional plans from the Alaska Legislature's Bush Caucus, and the City and Borough of Juneau; and single district plans from the City of Valdez and the Bristol Bay Borough. The Board is releasing these plans as they were presented to the Board. The Board does not endorse any of these plans and did not attempt to verify the accuracy or legality of any private plans. 

The Board will begin a series of public hearings around Alaska on April 18 to take comments on its draft plans and private plans that were released today. The public hearing process will end with a statewide teleconference on May 6th.  The Board will then begin meeting in public work sessions on May 16 to draft a final plan for adoption by June 13, 2011.

The Board's draft plans are subject to revision before the Board adopts a final plan.

Kay Brown's blog at Alaskans for Fair Redistricting gives details on what the districts look like in clear, precise reports.

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