A new Alaska Senate map takes shape with Eagle River gaining a senator

A screen capture of a Zoom meeting. The main screen shows two men wearing masks.
Alaska Redistricting Board Chair John Binkley addresses the public on Zoom at the end of an all-day meeting on Monday in the board office in Anchorage. Board members Bethany Marcum and E. Budd Simpson are on the left. The board decided on state Senate district boundaries during the meeting. (Screen capture of Zoom)

The Alaska Redistricting Board spent Monday drawing the district lines for the state Senate. 

The board, which was required to pair House districts to set the Senate boundaries, chose a Senate map for Anchorage drawn by board member Bethany Marcum. 

Marcum, who was appointed to the board by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said she started her Anchorage map by combining the House district that includes Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson with one that includes part of Eagle River. 

That means heavily Republican Eagle River, currently represented by Sen. Lora Reinbold in the Senate, will now be represented by two senators.

The map puts Democratic Senators Tom Begich and Elvi Gray-Jackson into the same Senate district. Republican Senators Mia Costello and Natasha von Imhof also were moved into the same district. 

The five Senate districts representing coastal Alaska from the Arctic to Southeast will remain similar to their current boundaries. But Seward was split off from the Bear Creek area immediately north of the city and placed in a Senate district with Kodiak and Homer. 

RELATED: Alaska Redistricting Board chooses map that emphasizes compact districts in Anchorage

Chevak moves from the Senate district that also includes Nome and Utqiagvik to the district that includes Bethel and Dillingham. And Yakutat moves from a district that stretches west to Kodiak to one stretching south to Ketchikan.

North Pole’s House seat will now share a Senate seat with Eielson Air Force Base instead of with Chena Ridge, as it does under the current map. And the rural Interior will share a Senate seat with the Ester and College areas west of Fairbanks rather than communities in the western part of the Fairbanks-North Star Borough. 

The map is based on the U.S. census completed last year and will be used for the first time in the open primary next year. However, it could face a legal challenge. The board has been sued over redistricting maps in the past. 

The board still must decide which areas that held Senate elections last year will have to hold new elections next year. Senate terms usually last four years, but are shortened when district lines change significantly during redistricting. The deadline is Wednesday.

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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