Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reps. Gara and Kawasaki Introduce Constitutional Amendment To Create Less Partisan Redistricting Board

I get media emails every day and sometimes I pursue them, but most of this stuff goes to all the media and I don't need to cover it.

But today I got one on a Constitutional amendment to change Alaska's Redistricting Board to make it less partisan.  Since I've been paying some attention to Alaska's Redistricting Board, I did look into this one.

Two Democrats - Reps. Les Gara and Scott Kawazaki - introduced this House Joint Resolution (HJR).  I looked through it quickly.  Here's what I saw.

  • Increases the Board from five members to seven.  
  • Six would be members of the two top political parties chosen by the parties.  (Currently the governor chooses two, the presiding officers of the state senate and house each  choose one, and the supreme court chief justice chooses one.)
  • Seventh member would be chosen by the Board by Dec. 1 of the census year.  If they can't agree, Supreme Court chief justice chooses.
  • Seventh member must not be a member of any party for the last ten years.
  • Board members can't run for the legislature until after next decennial census and new redistricting board plan is in place. (Currently can't run until second election after new plan approved.)

What seems to be lost in the new proposal (language that's cut out and I don't see replaced elsewhere) is:
  • Designated time for having the six political members appointed.
  • New members have to be state residents for at least a year.
  • New members can't be public employees or officials.
  • Requirement that members chosen without regard to political affiliation (this changes and it wasn't followed anyway.)
This is the first attempt that I know of to change the redistricting board since the current plan was approved in December 2013.  At this point, I assume the Republicans think they'll still be the dominant party in Alaska by 2020 when the next redistricting takes place.  If that is the case, they would prefer the current system which gives them control over four out of five of the board members.  And by then the Supreme Court Chief justice could be on their side too. And since the Republicans have a strong hold on both legislative houses now, I don't expect any attempts to move too quickly on this.  But much can change in six years.    

This wouldn't be a "non-partisan" board, but it would be a more balanced board. 

Below is a copy of the new submitted HJR (which doesn't have a number yet).

And here's a June 3, 2013 report from the Alaska Legislative Research Services titled "Nonpartisan Redistricting" which includes an attachment of an article by Gordon Harrison on the 2002 Redistricting process in Alaska and recommendations for changes.  This  came with the email announcing the constitutional amendment.

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