The board tasked with drawing Alaska’s political boundaries has approved new state Senate districts for the Anchorage area, with two members expressing opposition.
The Alaska Redistricting Board adopted the plan, 3-2, on Wednesday, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The board had gone back to work after the state Supreme Court ruled that a Senate district pairing part of east Anchorage and the Eagle River area constituted an “unconstitutional political gerrymander.”
The new plan would join part of the Eagle River area with south Anchorage and Girdwood for one Senate district and another part of the Eagle River area to an area that includes a military base for another Senate district. The board’s dissenting members said the plan would improperly give Eagle River greater representation in the Senate.
“This is still gerrymandering, just in a different way, in my mind,” board member Melanie Bahnke said.
The board had been considering two options to address concerns raised by the court. The other option would have joined the Eagle River area’s two House districts into one Senate district. Two House districts make up one Senate district.
If the new plan is upheld, Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold of Eagle River and Republican Sen. Roger Holland of Anchorage would be in the same district.
Board members John Binkley, Bethany Marcum and Budd Simpson, all Republicans, voted in favor of the new plan. Members Bahnke and Nicole Borromeo, who are independents, dissented.
Binkley and Simpson said the new map is not biased in favor of Republicans, noting Reinbold and Holland testified against it.
The plan pairs Anchorage’s Muldoon House districts together. With those together, it made more sense to join the military base to northern Eagle River than the base to downtown Anchorage, Simpson said.
The state Supreme Court found that a prior map that paired a House district that included part of Anchorage’s Muldoon area with an Eagle River area House district amounted to an “unconstitutional political gerrymander.”
A state Superior Court judge had requested a status update from the board on its work by Friday.
Simpson and Binkley said they believed the Supreme Court’s decision required them only to join the Muldoon House districts.
Borromeo and Bahnke disagreed with that interpretation.
“Eagle River is now going to have two senators; how is that not an advantage?” Borromeo said.