Peterburg’s lawyer has filed the city’s objection to Alaska’s latest redistricting plan. In a 25-page brief, Attorney Tom Klinkner argues that the Alaska Redistricting Board, “failed to take the required hard look,” at whether new legislative lines for Southeast Alaska complied with a state constitutional requirement that districts be compact. The revised plan still has Petersburg sharing the newly-created house district 32 with Juneau. Petersburg officials want to remain in a district with Sitka. Klinkner updated the City Council on the issue by phone Monday night.
“Given the expedited the expedited schedule on which the court requested oppositions to be filed, I expect we’ll have an early decision from the court on what it chooses to do about the new plan which I’ll report to you as soon as I hear about it. And from that point, depending on what the court decides, its either back to the board for further work or perhaps up to the supreme court again,” he said.
Petersburg lost a lawsuit against the original plan late last year and chose not to appeal. However, a separate legal challenge from Fairbanks resulted in an Alaska Supreme Court-ordered rewrite in March. The justices essentially found that the board failed to meet requirements under the state constitution while trying to comply with the federal voting rights act. The court told the Board to produce a new plan that first complies with state law, and only then, “make revisions that deviate from the Alaska Constitution when deviation is the only means available to satisfy Voting Rights Act requirements.”
The board has since adopted a revision that changed election district boundaries for parts of the Aleutians and the Interior, as well as areas around Nome and Bethel. It made no changes to its original plan for Southeast lines.
The revision is now back in Superior Court, awaiting a judge’s approval. Klinkner expected Petersburg would not be the only party to object.
At their last meeting earlier this month, Petersburg’s Mayor and councilors agreed to spend 20 thousand dollars to take their new objection to the state supreme court, if necessary.