Assembly May Reconsider Redrawn Municipal Electoral Districts
City attorney recommends reversal
ANCHORAGE - Precinct 520 in Airport Heights has historically been a split precinct along DeBarr Road.
But two weeks ago the Assembly voted to move the part of the precinct in Assembly Election District 1 (Downtown) into District 4 (Midtown) - meaning the whole precinct is part of District 4.
Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler is recommending the assembly reverse its decision because the new boundary line brings too many voters into the Midtown district -- raising the population deviation from 5.84 percent to 8.53 percent.
Wheeler said it used to be okay to have a deviation of 10 percent. But these days the population of districts must be much closer to equal.
"With today's technology, GIS mapping, U.S. Census data being computerized, we can do a much better job of finely drawing the lines,” he said.
Wheeler also said the change diminishes the voting strength of Alaska Natives living Downtown who would have to vote as part of Midtown.
“You want to make sure you have a balance and that you don't dilute minority voting strengths in a way that would be in violation of the constitution and the Civil Rights Act,” said Wheeler.
But Assemblymember Patrick Flynn, who represents the Downtown area, said the whole redistricting process was done without giving the public a chance to comment, and he won't support the change on principle.
“I'm just very disappointed in how this process has manifested itself out of the public eye, without public input, without input from community councils, without input frankly from the majority of the Assembly,” said Flynn.
The big change some people wanted to discuss in detail was making Downtown a two-member district instead of a single.
“We all feel like we've gotten the short end of the stick for 30 years,” said S.J. Klein, president of the Fairview Community Council.
The single member district was meant to rotate, but Downtown has had one member since the '80s.
“Having only one representative on the Assembly means we have one voice when other districts have two,” said Klein.