Which Anchorage neighborhoods should share the same legislative districts was the focus of a hearing on Monday.
The Alaska Redistricting Board held its first public hearing in the state’s largest city since adopting draft maps last month. Anchorage includes all or part of 16 of the 40 districts in the Alaska House of Representatives.
A few residents spoke in support of a map drawn up by a group of organized labor, public interest and Alaska Native organizations, Alaskans for Fair Redistricting.
Anchorage NAACP President Kevin McGee said he likes that group’s map. He’s concerned that some of the other maps the board is considering wouldn’t meet standards in the state constitution.
“We should also recognize the imperative to protect minority voters’ franchise in Southcentral Alaska,” McGee said. “Attempts at partisan gerrymandering would come at the expense of meeting constitutional obligations.”
Other residents spoke in favor of a map by a different group that includes former state Republican Party Chair Randy Ruedrich, Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting, which has a similar name to but is distinct from the labor-backed group.
Bruce Schulte said this map does a better job than others of considering drainage areas and other geographic features that the constitution says the board can use. He singled out a district that would have Campbell Creek and Seward Highway as its borders.
“I know those are fairly significant boundaries,” he said. “I think that the resulting district reflects a sort of consistent demographic and interest.”
Others called for the board to focus more on Senate district boundaries. In two draft maps adopted by the board, the House districts have not been paired up into Senate districts.
Steve Aufrecht said the board announced the Senate districts at the last minute in the past.
“There was no time whatsoever for anybody to make comments on those Senate pairings,” he said. “I know you’re going to want to get it done as late as you can. But try to leave some time, so that people can see the Senate pairings and make comments.”
Board member Nicole Borromeo said the board may hold a meeting focused on the Senate districts. She asked Alaskans to bring their own ideas to the series of public hearings in communities around the state.
“Don’t just tell us what’s wrong with a map. Please offer a suggestion if you have one. And if you don’t have one, that’s OK. It’s more than sufficient to alert us to the problem,” Borromeo said.
The board plans to hold a total of more than 20 hearings. It must adopt its final map by Nov. 10.