Newly released 2010 U.S. Census numbers means the daunting task of redrawing legislative and voting districts throughout Alaska.
Wednesday, the Alaska Redistricting Board and the Alaska Native Policy Center discussed efforts to ensure that political representation from rural areas receives the same attention and consideration as more urban areas, such as Anchorage and Fairbanks.
First Alaskans Institute officials say they want to empower the Alaska native community and the greater public.
“If you are just looking across the state at the different districts, how those lines are drawn could impact incumbents, impact where people live as to whether or not they can represent that particular district, and how those districts come together,” said First Alaskans Institute CEO Denise Morris. “It really is an important process.”
In southeast Alaska, low population numbers in his area troubles one state lawmaker.
“I've lost one third of the average daily membership that makes up the foundation formula,” said Rep. Kyle Johansen (R-Ketchikan). “1,200 kids have disappeared from my district in the last ten years, it's tough for us. That's why we are so ornery all the time.”
But ways of spreading the word about redistricting are changing.
Shortly after the Alaska Redistricting Board released information regarding Alaska native populations and districts Tuesday, the Alaska Native Policy Center posted it on its Facebook page. “In almost one month alone [the Facebook page] got almost 17,000 hits,” said Alaska Native Policy Center Director Liz Medicine Crow.
However, not all rural Alaska communities have access to the Internet or satellite and teleconferencing can be a challenge. “We want to make sure that we are not only looking at the social networking, but if people want to write a letter they have the opportunity to do that as well,” Morris said.
Census and redistricting timeline:
March 31- Census Bureau delivery of 2010 data to states deadline
April & May - Alaska Redistricting Board publishes preliminary boundaries
April & June – Alaska Redistricting Board conducts public meetings
June - Alaska Redistricting Board reports new districting plan
July - Public reaction period
The Department of Justice will rule on the state's redistricting plan in fall.