JUNEAU, Alaska (NWN) — A divided Alaska redistribution board voted Tuesday on the House district pairing for Senate seats for the Anchorage area, with one member saying the board was seen as “an unfortunate and very easily winnable piece of partisan gerrymandering.” open to reasoning”.
Board member Nicole Borromeo said she opposed annexing part of Anchorage’s Muldoon area with the Eagle River district.
She urged the five-member board to reconsider its 3-2 vote to finalize the Senate pairings for the Anchorage area, which included plans to split the conservative Eagle River area into two Senate seats. The board voted 3-2 against the reconsideration.
The board released a revised map late Tuesday that includes some changed numbers for house districts, board staff said.
The board is charged with rewriting Alaska’s political boundaries after the US Census, conducted every 10 years. The board aims to complete its work by Wednesday. Once finalized, the overall plan can be challenged in court.
Tuesday’s actions followed an exchange of nods on proposed maps and extended working sessions for the area on Monday.
Board member Melanie Banke proposed the pairing of two Eagle River-area House districts to form a Senate seat, and the addition of two House districts that comprise the Muldoon area for a Senate seat. Member Bethany Markham proposed the addition of an Eagle River House district with an Anchorage district containing a military base and another Eagle River district, one of which is the Muldoon district.
Markum argued that there were strong links between Bess and the Eagle River, and the socio-economic link between Muldoon and the Eagle River.
The members who voted with Markham on Tuesday were Bud Simpson and John Binkley. Markham and Simpson were appointed to the board last year by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy; Binkley was appointed by then-Senate Speaker Kathy Gisele, a Republican.
Borromeo was appointed by then-House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, an independent, and Bahnke by then-Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger.
Borromeo said Tuesday that he did not believe the arguments Markum had made and that “sound, sound legal advice he received from attorneys in the executive session supports this pairing” of the Muldoon region and Eagle River districts.
“It defies logic that we will approach the minority in South Muldoon and connect it with a very white district 8 miles away on a highway that crosses a mountain range and expects the court to trust with any satisfaction.” That we have satisfied the public’s confidence in the process,” she said.
Binkley later cautioned Borromeo against attacking Markum as Borromeo sought to continue what he said.
“Be careful, please,” Binkley told Borromeo during the tense exchange.
“I’m being careful, and you know what? He should have been careful when he exposed this board to liability yesterday,” Borromeo said.
Markam did not participate in the discussion that took place during the board meeting in Anchorage.
Behnke in his commentary described what happened as a surprise. “I thought we had achieved consensus. I will accept the result for now,” she said.
She said the pairing she proposed, “eliminates questions around the dilution of minority voters’ ability to elect someone to office.” He said the board’s actions would have the effect of suppressing the voice of voters in the Muldoon region, which he described as racially diverse.
Eagle River currently has one senator, Republican Lora Reinbold.
This story was corrected to remove the reference to “mazzling” and to interpret a quote from Melanie Banke.