Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Alaska Supreme Court Denies Redistricting Board's Appeal

Here's what's posted on the Alaska Redistricting Board's website today:

IT IS ORDERED:  The Petition for Review is DENIED.

But what was in the petition?  The Redistricting Board staff member I called to find out said, no, those other documents aren't being posted now. (They were last year.)  One of the Board members, when I complained that they'd taken these sorts of documents down, told me that people should know how to get them themselves.  So I called the Alaska Supreme Court and was told, no, they don't post the petitions online, but I can come down to the Supreme Court office in downtown Anchorage and ask to see them.  The Board staff person said she'd try to get the other documents that explain what this order means up tomorrow.

So I went back to the video I posted this morning of the Board's attorney, Michael White, talking about how much time people will have to file objections.  Here's what he told me in that video tape:

"The original process is the Board proclaims and then sits back and waits 30 days to file.  The trial court filed an order recently that seemed to imply that we were back using the same process.  And our interpretation of the constitution is that’s wrong.  We’re not saying people can’t challenge this map.  We’re not saying that new people can’t come in and say we don’t like this one.  We’re saying, no, you don’t wait 30 days to see if there are challenges, you resubmit it and see if the court says file your objections in ten days, 15 days, whatever.  The Court still could give them 30 days I suppose. But given the time line he told the Board to operate under, maybe he gets 30 days maybe he doesn’t.  But that issue is still before our Supreme Court now.  We asked for their guidance before the 20th."
So, I'm guessing that the Board's assertion that they should submit the Plan to the court now and let the judge give people a time frame to object was denied.  Instead, I'm guessing the Board is to wait 30 days and then submit the Plan. 

Meanwhile, I was also told that the Board has a meeting scheduled Thursday, but the only thing on the agenda is Executive Session.  So I expect they'll be talking about what this ruling means and what their options are.  I know they can go into Executive Session to talk about litigation (discussion of their legal adversaries and their own legal strategy), but simply talking about the meaning of a ruling is something they've done publicly before and I would think is inappropriate for Executive Session.  But legal stuff is always subject to interpretation I guess.

They proclaimed the new plan on Sunday, July 14, so thirty days we be Tuesday, August 13. If my guesses here are correct, then people have until that day to file challenges. 

Will there be any challenges?  

When I interviewed Democratic Party Chair Mike Wenstrup Sunday, he said there were problems but they'd have to wait until they read the Board's findings.

A woman at the Board meeting Sunday showed me a list of Senators and pointed out that the Democrats in Anchorage had pretty much their same seats*, but some of the Republicans had had their seats split and suggested there was gerrymandering.  Particularly she complained about Cathy Geissel's district changing so much.  I pointed out that the Board had four Republicans and one Democrat and she said that they weren't really Republicans.  So, perhaps there could be a challenge from, say,  the Tea Party Republicans.

And Sealaska seems to have some concerns as mentioned in this Juneau Empire article:
“This very much impacts our Southeast communities,” said Jaeleen Araujo, vice president and general counsel for Sealaska. “There is no cultural and socio-economic similarities between our rural and urban areas in Southeast.”
Two Tlingit lawmakers representing Southeast communities lost their seats in 2012 after proposed district map was allowed to be used for the election. Representative Bill Thomas lost to 23-year-old Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka by 32 votes. In the same election, redistricting pitted incumbent Senators Albert Kookesh and Bert Stedman against each other. Kookesh lost that race after redistricting separated him from most of the smaller communities he’d previously represented. .  .  .

"This whole process has been very disheartening,” Araujo said. “We believe very strongly that the viewpoints in our rural and urban communities are very different.”
Araujo said that Sealaska is still examining the new redistricting plans and maps.
“We’ll do what we can in the next couple of weeks to see if there are any legal arguments to pursue,” Araujo said. “If there are, we will definitely follow up on them.”
I'm not sure why every time someone talks about Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins they have to mention his age.  Is there some mystic connection between the 23 years and the 32 votes?  I would imagine that mentioning he's a Yale graduate is more significant than his age. In 2010, Peggy Wilson and other SE politicians put forth a Constitutional Amendment to expand the legislature so that rural Alaska (including SE) wouldn't have to lose legislators after redistricting.  But Alaska voters turned it down.

In any case, Haines, Bill Thomas' home town, is no longer in the same district with Kreiss-Tomkins.  Instead, the Board cited people  from Haines who testified at the public hearings in Juneau a couple of weeks ago, who said they should be in the downtown Juneau district and that's where the Board put them.  Downtown Juneau is probably the most Democratic district in the state, so that would make it even harder for Republican Bill Thomas. 

*I know this is confusing if you haven't been immersed in it.  When they paired the house districts to make Senate seats, in some cases, the districts were pretty much intact.  In other case they got paired very differently and as much as half the district had new constituents. 

1 comment:

  1. Bill Thomas lost because he was arrogant, overbearing, and rude to constituents and to city councils in his district.

    Jonathan won because he listened to the voters instead of telling them that he knew what was best for them.

    The proposed amendment lost because it only added three members to the house. What we really need is much larger legislative bodies, so that rural legislators have districts that aren't physically huge, too large to campaign effectively in, and so that urban districts are small enough the candidates can campaign in person, door to door.

    I suggest that a legislature with 33 senators and 99 house members would allow that. The odd numbers would prevent deadlocks when electing presiding officers --- no more 10/10 or 20/20 splits.


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