Anchorage, Alaska - The Alaska Redistricting Board announced today that its Amended Proclamation Plan has received "preclearance" from the U.S. Department of Justice.A copy of the preclearance letter is available for download here.Alaska Redistricting Board Chairman John Torgerson issued the following statement this afternoon:"Now that the Amended Proclamation Plan has been approved by both the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Department of Justice, the 2012 elections can move forward without interruption. This is an important milestone for the Board and for the state of Alaska. We have worked hard to balance the multiple competing legal standards in building a plan that will fairly represent all Alaskans. Today's decision validates those efforts."Under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, a number of states - including Alaska - are required to submit new redistricting plans to the U.S. Department of Justice for review in order to ensure that the proposed change is free from discriminatory purpose or effect and will not result in retrogression. An Alaska redistricting plan is retrogressive if it is drawn in a manner that worsens Alaska Native voting strength as compared to the previous district configurations.Detailed information about the Section 5 review process can be accessed at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/sec_5/about.php.
This means that the Department of Justice did not find the plan to be retrogressive - or to give Alaska Natives less of a chance of electing candidates of their choice than the last plan established ten years ago. Alaska needs the preclearance before its plan can be implemented. Since the Amended Plan is relatively close to the original plan that was rejected by the Alaska Supreme Court for other reasons, the preclearance was expected, but not certain.
However, the letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez does say lack of objections by the Attorney General "does not bar subsequent litigation."
This Amended Plan was approved by the Alaska Supreme Court for the August 2012 primary and the November election. But it was accepted by the Supreme Court because the Board said there wasn't enough time to create a new plan the way the Court required in time for the election. So it would appear that the Board either has to come up with another plan that gets Supreme Court and DOJ approval - for the rest of the decade. Or, they have to convince the Supreme Court to let them permanently adopt the Amended Plan.