The Haines Borough had objected to the board’s latest revisions in Southeast Alaska, noting that they would pit Haines Rep. Bill Thomas against Juneau Rep. Cathy Munoz in this year’s elections.
“The court has accepted the Southeast districts as configured in the plan of April 5, 2012 rather than the reconfiguration submitted by the Redistricting Board to the court on May 15, 2012 because of the numerous objections to the reconfigured districts that this court has received,” the court’s ruling said.
This year’s proposed redistricting plan was rejected by the Alaska Supreme Court, with the April 5 revision subsequently rejected by a Fairbanks judge. Both opinions held that the board’s plan favors compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act over compliance with the state constitution, sending it back to the board for further work.
Tuesday’s ruling (PDF) notes that the May 15 plan was rejected for use because it had not yet been pre-cleared for use by theU.S. Department of Justiceas required by the Voting Rights Act, which could put this year’s elections at risk if preclearance is refused.
“Notice of the failure of the Department of Justice to pre-clear the new districts would come so late in the 2012 election cycle that a great disruption to the election process would result,” the ruling said. “In order to avoid this possibility, the court will not require the use of the May 15, 2012 reconfigured districts for the 2012 elections.”
Two justices on the five-member high court -- Craig Stowers and Daniel Winfree -- dissented with the order, noting that they would require the use of the May 15 plan.
A footnote in the ruling expressed gratitude to the redistricting board for its work on short notice to comply with the court’s accelerated schedule.
“We note that our May 10 order required that the Board's members and staff work through the weekend of May 12th and 13th in order to arrive at a new plan for Southeast Alaska,” the ruling said. “This was a considerable imposition on their personal lives and we thank and commend them for their dedicated service.”