Petersburg is asking again to be in a legislative district with Sitka and other smaller Southeast communities. Petersburg’s borough assembly voted Monday to send a letter asking the Alaska Redistricting Board to go back to the electoral map it adopted in May of 2012, instead of the interim plan selected later that month.
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Petersburg was unsuccessful in its court challenge of the board’s plan putting Petersburg in a house district with Juneau for the 2012 election. However, the state’s Supreme Court ordered the board to come up with a new plan based on the state constitution in time for the 2014 election. In response hearings are scheduled late this month and early next month on a new permanent plan. Petersburg elected officials are hoping the latest change will put the community back in a district with Sitka, Wrangell and some other small panhandle communities.

During a radio call in show Monday Assembly member Cindy Lagoudakis supported the change.
“I do think that we would benefit by being included with smaller communities,” Lagoudakis said. “I think we have some similar interests and characteristics that make it more aligned with other small communities rather than being included with Juneau, although I can’t say that we’ve had any major problems in that regard thus far.”

Petersburg’s attorney Tom Klinkner this month drafted a letter to the board asking them to adopt “Option A” for Southeast Alaska. That option joins Petersburg with Sitka and Wrangell. The board adopted that plan in May of 2012, however the Supreme court tossed out that month it following objections from Haines and Southeast Native organizations. The split court was concerned with federal approval in time for last year’s elections and ordered the board to put an interim plan in place and later revisit the Southeast districts.

Mayor pro tem Sue Flint read from the Klinkner’s draft letter at a borough assembly meeting this month. “Option A remains the districting plan for Southeast that best meets the requirements of Article VI, section six of the Alaska Constitution, the Voting Rights Act still provides no justification for deviating from Alaska constitutional requirements in Southeast Alaska and there is ample time to obtain Department of Justice preclearance of a redistricting plan that includes Option A before the 2014 elections.”

On the same radio call in show Monday, assembly member John Hoag said he was pleased with Petersburg’s representation in the Juneau district last session and did not think there was a perfect solution for Southeast. “When you look at option A, Prince of Wales gets cut in half with two districts,” he noted, adding, “I’m sure those residents don’t think that makes a lot of sense. They’re gonna end up doing what they do. Option A is better for Petersburg but it would be better if the district would include all of Prince of Wales I would think.”

The vote was unanimous to send the Option A letter to the board. That group is holding work sessions this week to come up with new plans based on state constitutional requirements. Public hearings and plan presentations will be in Anchorage June 28th, in Fairbanks July 1st and in Juneau July 2nd with option for people to listen in and testify over the telephone.