Sound off on redistricting plans Friday

Redistricting board member Bob Brodie talks at the April 14 Kodiak Island Borough Assembly work session.(Wes Hanna photo)

For the past 10 years, candidates seeking to represent Kodiak Island in the state Legislature have included campaign stops in the small communities surrounding Iliamna Lake, a far-flung part of House District 36 on the Alaska Peninsula, and occasionally a Senate candidate from Homer would appear on ballots in Kodiak.

That may all change under state redistricting plans now in draft form. Kodiak residents will have the opportunity to provide comments on the plans Friday, beginning at noon in the borough assembly chambers.

The five-person Alaska redistricting board released their draft plans two weeks ago. They have been holding public meetings around the state as they ready a final redistricting plan due June 13. The full maps of the draft redistricting plan can be accessed on the website www.akredistricting.org.

States are required to redraw their districts based on 2010 census numbers that were released in March.

While the state gained 83,300 residents over the past 10 years, the population of Kodiak Island Borough saw a decline of 2.3 percent. That means Kodiak Island would need to be combined with about 4,000 more people to make a House district.

Initially, Kodiak resident and redistricting board member Bob Brodie said, there were plans to put Kodiak Island with Dutch Harbor or Seldovia, or continue to combine with more communities in the Lake and Penninsula Borough.

“There’s a ripple effect,” Brodie told the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly just after the draft plans were released. “Every time you take something from one, it makes every other boundary change.”

The current draft plans extend the district boundary across the Kenai Peninsula to take in Seward.

“Right now, Seward is the first option,” Brodie said.

One factor that could change Kodiak’s House district is an objection by Cordova at being included in a district that includes a great deal of Interior Alaska.

“I suspect if there is a challenge from Cordova we could end up with them,” Brodie said.

There has never been a redistricting plan in Alaska that hasn’t been challenged in court, Brodie said.

Other draft redistricting plans submitted by private interests were also adopted by the board to elicit a wider range of public comment. These plans run the gamut for Kodiak Island’s House district.

The Rights Coalition plan combines Kodiak Island with Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and the rest of the communities out the Aleutian Chain creating a district nearly 1,400 miles across.

The new district for Kodiak Island submitted by the group Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting includes Seldovia and Cordova, but places another district physically between Kodiak and the other communities.

Plans submitted by the Bush Caucus divide Kodiak Island in half, with villages Old Harbor, Karluk, Akhiok and Larson Bay in one district and the northern half of Kodiak Island in another district.

The Alaska constitution requires that House districts be compact, contiguous and have similar socio-economic ties, Brodie told the assembly.

In drawing the new districts, the board also had to keep in mind the federal Voting Rights Act. The act mandates that you can’t redistrict a state to reduce minority voting strength as compared to the previous districts.

“To do that was like trying to swim with handcuffs on,” Brodie said, “to try and make sure you had all of the minority districts.”

Senate district consist of two House districts. Traditionally those House districts are contiguous, Brodie said. But as the House districts were paired to make Senate seats, the district that includes Ketchikan was left without a nearby district to pair with.

“The talk has been that Kodiak is the most appropriate district for the other half of (the Senate seat),” Brodie said. “I argue that perhaps Valdez is the most appropriate and we would stay with Kenai.”

Even so, one of the redistricting board draft plans pairs Kodiak Island and Ketchikan into one Senate district.

Borough Mayor Jerome Selby expressed Kodiak Island continue paired with the Kenai Peninsula for a Senate seat to accommodate a state Senator who could easily stay in touch with constituents.

“I’m hoping that we come up with a fair plan,” Brodie said. “We’ll see what happens. It’s just a matter of what people think.”

Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via email at whanna@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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