State Elections to Happen Under Temporary Political Boundary Maps | Alaska News
June 1 kicks off the period for submitting nominations for state office, but the back and forth between the Alaska Redistricting Board and the Alaskan court system over new political boundaries continues.
A temporary redistricting plan for the 2022 state elections passed Tuesday based on the Alaska Supreme Court’s latest opinion.
“This has the effect of rematching four of Anchorage’s eight Senate seats. No changes to the home map have been made,” reads a statement from redistricting board executive director Peter Torkelson.
Interior Alaska’s political boundaries are consistent with what the board has previously approved. At issue is the council’s decision to place the two Eagle River House districts in separate Senate districts, which has prompted accusations of gerrymandering.
The majority of the five-member redistricting board seeks to preserve the strength of the military vote by combining a House district covering Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson with an Eagle River House district to create a Senate district.
Opponents say their real motive is to amplify the Conservative vote by splitting a trusted conservative community into two separate Senate seats. The courts have agreed with this point of view. A full explanation is pending from the state Supreme Court on why the redistricting board maps are gerrymandered.
The three Republican members of the council are Bethany Marcum, Budd Simpson and John Binkley, president, Fairbanks businessman and former state legislator.
Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Matthews repeatedly accused them of “discriminatory intent” and unofficial coordination. He writes that they do not rely on public testimony.
The Anchorage judge wrote in a recent opinion that despite evidence that active duty and ex-military live in Eagle River, associating it with JBER appears to be a pretense. JBER was not determined by the court to be a “community of interest,” Matthews noted, and the redistricting board did not present expert testimony to justify treating it as a “community of interest.” “.
“While board members supporting this twinning talked about the rural roads service, wildlife issues, and even geographic connections (the Chugach Mountains and the Ship Creek drainage), there was little discussion of the twinning. evident from both districts of Eagle River House,” Matthews wrote.
It reviewed executive board sessions, but noted in a recent advisory that the practice had declined.
The judge’s notices also mentioned the Republican members’ statements, text messages, emails and affiliations.
“Communications and statements suggest that the majority members of the board approached the process with a predetermined outcome in mind,” Matthews wrote.
As evidence of Simpson’s partisan mindset, Matthews pointed to an email in which Simpson said Democrats are pushing to dilute Senate constituencies to make it easier for their candidates to be elected.
Matthews argues that Marcum, who was stationed at JBER and lived in Eagle River, made statements “that paint the picture that partisan politics was indeed a motivating factor behind his desire to twin North Eagle River with JBER.” The opinion notes that she is subscribed to a Republican redistricting mailing list and “the only reasonable inference” is that Marcum is acting for partisan purposes.
Matthews wrote that the majority of the text messages suggest private phone calls being made between them.
At a recent board meeting on Sunday, tensions flared as the two minority-voting board members, Nicole Borromeo and Melanie Bahnke, expressed frustration and complained about being left out of decisions with Council Counsel, Matthew Singer. Borromeo and Bahnke oppose the cards adopted by the majority and defended by Singer.
Things got heated with several board members pointing fingers at each other and Binkley repeatedly calling for decorum.
At one point, Borromeo offered what she described as a “friendly amendment”, proposing that the majority of the redistricting board offer to pay the legal fees for an appeal or ask Singer to provide her services for free.
A motion from Marcum was on the floor asking the Supreme Court to review Matthews’ latest opinion.
“And you’re suggesting that…as a friendly amendment?” Binkley asked.
Borromeo began discussing the redistricting board’s legal fees when Binkley said, “Yeah, okay. I think we understand.
“I haven’t finished,” Borromeo said. “I haven’t finished, and you may not have understood that.”
The two spoke to each other sometimes.
“Well, why don’t you make a motion and then we can discuss the motion,” Binkley said.
“Excuse me,” said Borromeo. “I’m talking. John, let me finish. John, I’m talking about my motion, thank you very much.
“Yeah, but you don’t talk about the motion until the motion is on the floor,” Binkley said.
“Listen, you just finished giving us a great talk about being professional,” Borromeo said. “Now please button it up and let me finish what I’m saying.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Binkley said. “Exactly. And follow the rules. That would be helpful, Nicole.