Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Redistricting Board Attorney Responds to Supreme Court Decision

The Alaska Supreme Court's main decision on the redistricting plan was that the plan had to go back for reworking because the Board drew its plans with a focus on complying with the Voting Rights Act, not with a focus on complying with the Alaska Supreme Court decision.  Each has standards the Board tried to comply with, but the Board's attorney, Michael White, told the Board, early on, that the federal Voting Rights Act took precedence over the Alaska Constitution.  So, while the Board kept the Constitutional requirements in mind, it decided to set up the necessary nine Native districts and then work out the rest of the state.

The Supreme Court (not to mention the plaintiffs) pointed out a section in the 1994 Supreme Court Case Hickel v. Southeast Conference that said

"[t]he Board must first design a reapportionment plan based on the requirements of the Alaska Constitution. That plan then must be tested against the Voting Rights Act. A reapportionment plan may minimize article VI, section 6 requirements when minimization is the only means available to satisfy Voting Rights Act requirements.,,5"

On this basis, the Supreme Court said the Board had to go back and follow the court mandated process.

I couldn't help thinking that the Board's attorney surely had to know this.  Why didn't he direct the Board to do this?  Did he interpret it differently?  Did he think the Board was complying with it?  Did he think it wasn't relevant to this year's decision?

So I asked him after today's meeting.  I'm afraid I didn't have my camera out at the beginning.  He began by saying the key citation from the Hickel decision was completely off the radar.  As the video begins he's saying that the ruling essentially tells the board to ignore the federal law they have to comply with while they concentrate on meeting the state constitutional requirements.  You can hear the rest of his response on the video. 

If you want to see what the court said, you can see the text of the decision with my attempts to explain it here.  It's really not all that long. 

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