Redistricting Challengers Will Present Case in January

The case challenging the Alaska Redistricting Board re-map of legislative districts is slowly proceeding. A status hearing was held Friday on three consolidated suits filed by the Fairbanks North Star Borough, two local residents and the city of Petersburg. Fairbanks Borough attorney Jill Dolan says plaintiffs are waiting on some key information to move forward.

There’s an expedited time line for the case. A trial has been set for January, and the redistricting decision has to be rendered before a candidate filing deadline next summer. The Fairbanks complaints object to the inclusion of parts of Ester and the Gold Stream Valley in a massive voting district that extends to the Bering Sea. The Redistricting Board created the large district, and others in the state, in an attempt to meet a federal voting rights act requirement to protect the strength of the Alaska Native vote, but the board also falls under a state constitutional requirement that voter districts be compact and include similar communities. Fairbanks attorney Mike Walleri, who is representing the Goldstream and Ester residents, says the case is progressing as anticipated.

The defense referenced a federal voting rights official’s deployment to Africa for delaying the Redistricting Board’s response to the complaints. The case is being watched around the state.  During Friday’s hearing, attorneys indicated the city of Ketchikan intends to intervene on the defense side. The Fairbanks Borough’s Dolan says she also continues to field questions from interested parties, who could join the case.

Dolan says there’s interest by incumbents who are impacted by the plan. The revision of Fairbanks districts would pit incumbent Democratic state senators Joe Thomas and Joe Paskvan against one another. Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy is presiding over the case. He set the next hearing for August 26.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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