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Alaska redistricting board starts work on new maps with census data

Aug 30, 2021

Multiple versions of redistricting maps considered in a public comment period during the 2011 redistricting cycle. (Photo by: KTOO)

The U.S. Census released its reapportionment data for states this week. That means states now must redraw congressional and state legislative districts to make sure everyone has fair representation and voting rights.

In Alaska, a five-member board is appointed every ten years to re-draw the 40 state House and 20 state Senate districts. It will take them some time to crunch today’s data and draw new voting maps.

Nicole Borromeo was appointed to Alaska’s redistricting board by former Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger. She says now that the Census has released the data, there’s a lot of work to do before new districts are in place for the 2022 statewide election.

“The process is going to begin with our software contractor, taking the legacy files and putting it into a format that the board can work with. He’ll need roughly a week to do that,” Borromeo said.

The board will meet in Anchorage Aug. 23 and 24. They’ll cut the state into four parts.

“And each of the board members would take one of those segments, and we would start to really home in on those regions of the state and look at the districts as they now stand, how they’ve either grown in population or had an out-migration and lost individuals, and then come back together for a series of workshops and public meetings throughout the entire month of September,” Borromeo said.

The Census counted 733,391 Alaskans, which means the target population for each of Alaska’s 40 House districts will be 18,335 for the coming redistricting cycle. With fewer than a million people, Alaska gets only one congressional district, unlike populous states like California and New York.

The board has been meeting about twice a month since last September. The governor appoints two members. The presiding officer of the senate, the presiding officer of the house of representatives and the chief justice of the supreme court each appoint one.

The redistricting cycle after the 2010 census was highly contested. Deputy Director T. J. Presley says a series of lawsuits caused Alaska to miss the redistricting deadline for the next statewide election.

“The board was appointed on time,” Presley said. “They drew their maps. It’s just that they were sued by the Fairbanks North Star Borough and a number of other parties as well.”

That meant the board had to redraw the map after the election.

“Because the litigation took so long, the court realized that they were not going to resolve the issue in time. So the court actually just ordered that the map that was under consideration under the lawsuit would just be used for one year. And so for just one election, just for the 2012 election, the courts ordered the board to use that,” Presley said.

The legislative districts we use now we finally settled in 2013, three years after the census.

Citizens who want to comment on or follow the 2021 process can sign-up for updates online.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated Nicole Borromeo was appointed to the state’s redistricting board by Alaska Supreme Court Justice Daniel Winfree. Borromeo was appointed by former Chief Justice Joel Bolger.