|Congressional Boundaries||Drawn by independent redistricting commission|
|State Boundaries||Drawn by independent redistricting commission|
|Legislative Party||Senate: Republican; House: Bipartisan Coalition Control|
Census-related Redistricting Timeline Delays
State LegislativeAlert: Low
|Final Map Deadline||2021-12-29|
Constitutional - 90 days after Census (est. 9/30/21)
In Alaska, state legislative districts are drawn by the Redistricting Board, an independent commission of five members. Per Alaska’s state constitution (Art. VI § 8), the governor appoints two commissioners, the state Senate and House majority leaders each appoint one, and the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court appoints one. Commissioners are chosen “without regard to political affiliation.” Alaska has only one at-large congressional district, so there is no congressional redistricting.
In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Alaska’s state constitution (Art. VI § 6) requires that state legislative districts be contiguous, compact, preserve local government boundaries, use geographic features in describing boundaries, and preserve communities of interest, defined as “relatively integrated socio-economic area[s].”
Alaska follows a unique redistricting procedure called the Hickel process, established in the 1992 Alaska Supreme Court case Hickel v. Southeast Conference. First, the Redistricting Board must create a Hickel plan by following only the redistricting requirements set in the Alaska Constitution, as outlined above. Then, that plan is_ _tested against the Voting Rights Act; deviations from state constitutional criteria are only permitted if absolutely necessary for federal compliance.
Alaska’s state constitution (Art. VI § 10(a)) mandates that the Redistricting Board “hold public hearings” on its own proposed redistricting plan(s). In the 2011 redistricting cycle, the Board held hearings in April after releasing its draft plans. Additionally, the Redistricting Board voted unanimously to solicit public input to create a Hickel plan. The Board accepted the submission of, and invited public presentations on, proposed Hickel plans from “any individual, group, or organization.” It is probable that there will be similar opportunities for public input in 2021.
In the 2011 redistricting cycle, Alaska faced three initial lawsuits, consolidated into the In re Redistricting Cases of 2011:
- In March 2012, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the Redistricting Board had to redraw maps with a priority on following the Alaska Constitution, per the Hickel process.
- In May 2012, the Alaska Supreme Court struck down the Redistricting Board’s revised map, rejecting the adjustments made based on the Voting Rights Act. However, the map was still used in the interim for the 2012 elections while another remedial map was being drawn.
- In November 2013, the trial court rejected plaintiffs’ challenges to the remedial plans and adopted the new map.
One potential concern is the impact of redistricting on Alaska Natives. In 2012, Albert Kookesh, the co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives who lost his own state Senate seat, blamed redistricting as a contributing factor in the diminishing power of Natives in the Legislature; Redistricting Board Chair John Torgerson denied fault.
This will be Alaska’s first cycle without the protections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck down in the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. In the absence of preclearance requirements for communities of color (especially Native American communities), observers should closely monitor every step of the redistricting process to ensure fair treatment for all. Luckily, the Alaska Supreme Court has been relatively active in scrutinizing redistricting schemes.
Participate in the Board’s public input process:
- Obtain Alaska redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
- Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the commission starts collecting feedback.
- Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.
If you find fault with the final maps submitted by the Redistricting Board, you have the right to appeal to the Alaska Superior Court. Any Alaska voter has 30 days to file an application to “compel correction of any error in redistricting” (Alaska Const. Art. VI § 11).