Redistricting board wants high court to reconsider

Becky Bohrer
Associated Press State Wire: Alaska
January 9, 2013

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Redistricting Board wants the state's highest court to reconsider its decision that requires Alaska's political boundaries to be redrawn.

Attorneys for the board said in a petition filed this week that the court misconstrued or overlooked important facts in the case. They say the court — whose review of the plan is limited, they say, to ensuring the plan is not unreasonable and is constitutional — ignored its duty in failing to answer whether the plan adopted by the board was constitutional.

The attorneys also say the court violated the separation of powers doctrine by dictating the process the board must use in drawing a map — when the Alaska Constitution gives that right to the board.

"This court reviews a redistricting plan just as it does a regulation adopted by an administrative agency by giving deference to the factual or policy determinations of the Board and refraining from substituting its judgment for that of the Board expect on questions of law," attorneys Michael White and Nicole Corr wrote in the filing dated Monday.

"This court rejects the Board's chosen process of reapportionment, a task exclusively given to the Board by the Alaska Constitution, by implying the Board should have changed more districts than it did despite the Board's rationale and reasoning exhibited in its explicit detailed findings," they said.

A divided Alaska Supreme Court last month ordered the redistricting plan be redrawn for the 2014 elections, finding that the board did not follow the process it was instructed to follow.

Earlier in 2012, the court ordered the map be redrawn with greater deference to Alaska constitutional requirements. But the court ultimately let an interim plan be used for this year's elections, after finding problems and concerns with the new map.

In its latest decision, the court found that the board did not follow the process it was instructed to follow in redrawing the map the first time.

The majority opinion said it was undisputed that the board began formulating its original plan by focusing exclusively on race and creating the correct number of districts needed to meet requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act. When the board was ordered to take the constitution into account first in drawing the districts, the decision states, it left intact the boundaries of 36 districts that hadn't been challenged.

The board's attorneys dispute that number.

They also say just four districts were originally drawn to comply with the Voting Rights Act. "While the configuration of these districts may have had some ripple effect on the bordering districts, they did not impact the contours of every district in the state," they wrote.