Judge Harpoons Petersburg’s Redistricting Challenge

A Superior Court judge has ruled against Petersburg’s legal challenge of the Alaska Redistricting Board’s plan for new legislative districts.

In a 16-page decision liberally sprinkled with literary and nautical references, Judge Michael McConahy ruled in favor of a new legislative district that includes Juneau, Petersburg and several other Southeast communities. Executive director Taylor Bickford says the board is pleased with the decision.

Two Fairbanks-area residents are also challenging the Board’s plan and that part of the case is scheduled for trial in January. Petersburg initially challenged the plan on a number of issues. The suit argued the small community would have less of a voice in the state legislature, and had more in common socially and economically with smaller Southeast cities, than with Juneau. Petersburg officials this fall decided to drop those arguments and seek a summary judgement on the issue of whether the new district was compact, as required by the state constitution. City councilor Nancy Strand was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Petersburg can ask the judge to reconsider his decision or appeal it to the state supreme court. The deadline is Dec. 16 to file a motion for reconsideration.

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Joe Viechnicki is a reporter at KFSK in Petersburg.

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