Alaska Supreme Court finds Republican gerrymander in Anchorage districts, orders new map

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that Alaska’s redistricting board gerrymandered the boundaries of state Senate districts in Anchorage in order to favor Republican-leaning Eagle River.

In a brief notice, the Supreme Court upheld a lengthy Superior Court order issued earlier this month.

“We affirm the superior court’s determination that the board again engaged in unconstitutional political gerrymandering to increase the one group’s voting power at the expense of others,” the Supreme Court wrote.

The courts’ decision means the redistricting board must adopt a different plan for this year’s legislative elections, ordered by the Superior Court judge. The board could continue work and possibly write a different map for the elections from 2024 onward.

The Senate map adopted by the board, known as “Option 3B,” joined south Eagle River with South Anchorage and Girdwood; north Eagle River was joined with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and the Government Hill neighborhood.

The result in Anchorage, based on voting patterns from 2016 through 2020, would have been two solidly Republican Senate districts, two solidly Democratic ones and four competitive districts, one Republican-leaning.

The court’s action means the board must adopt “Option 2,” which joins Eagle River into a solidly Republican Senate district. Option 2 also results in two solidly Democratic districts and five competitive districts, two of which lean Republican.

Tuesday’s court order is almost certainly the final word in redistricting before this year’s legislative elections. The filing deadline for candidates is June 1, and the Supreme Court is the option of last resort for legal appeals.

Significantly, its decision appears to confirm that Republican-appointed redistricting board members colluded to draw maps favorable to Republican candidates.

That isn’t entirely clear; the court said a more lengthy explanation will follow at a future date.

This article is developing and will be updated.

Alaska Beacon

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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