Sen. Dunleavy to represent Valdez voters in District E
Confusion over the what backers hope will be Alaska’s final redistricting map were untangled Monday as election officials across the state carefully scrutinized boundary lines after the Alaska Redistricting Board released and approved the boundary maps for statewide elections.
The boundary lines place Valdez in House District 9, with Rep. Eric Feige (R-Chickaloon) remaining its representative. The new map pairs House District 9 with House District 10 to create Senate District E, meaning Valdez is now represented in the State Senate by Sen. Mike Dunleavy. Until Monday, Valdez was under Senate District C and represented by Sen. Click Bishop, a freshman from North Pole.
“The pairing is now with Sen. Dunleavy,” Bill Walker, city attorney, told the Valdez City Council Monday night.
Efforts to determine which State Senator will represent Valdez in the Alaska Legislature was difficult at best earlier in the day, as conflicting maps published by the state showed Valdez represented by Charlie Huggins, senate president.
“You have in this season, a new senator,” Walker said.
The new House Representative boundary is very similar to districts Valdez had been with in the past two district maps. However, the small port town of Whittier is now part of the new district and communities along the Richardson Highway corridor continue to be split into differing voter districts.
“It’s sort of a highway district, but it’s only half a highway district,” Walker said. “That’s unfortunate.”
Valdez had presented its own district map that included Richardson Highway communities such as Kenny Lake and Copper Center and east along the Alaska Highway to Tok.
Walker was at the board’s table on a regular basis during the three-year long process, monitoring boundary proposals that could pair Valdez with Anchorage, a scenario city officials hoped to avoid. In the redistricting process in the year 2000, the City of Valdez filed and ultimately prevailed in a lawsuit against such a voting district.
“I don’t think there will be any more litigation,” Walker said during the report.
Federal law mandates that all 50 states redraw voting district boundaries every 10 years using US census data to balance population changes. Alaska had the additional burden of needing Justice Dept. approval for its voting districts due to past violations of the Voting Rights Act. That requirement vanished after a ruling by US Supreme court that abolished portions of the law. To add to the confusion, the Alaska Supreme Court had ruled that the redistricting board had failed in its efforts to redraw voting districts by creating boundaries in accordance with Voting Rights Act provisions and not those spelled out by the Alaska Constitution.
“It’s only seven years until we have to start over again,” Walker said with a smile.