NEWS: Gara, Kawasaki Introduce Bi-Partisan Redistricting Proposal

Alaska state and flag

Legislation offers a fair, bi-partisan approach to developing future legislative districts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 26, 2014

“The decennial redistricting process too often has made a mockery of our nation’s ideal of truly representative democracy….”
–          League of Women Voters Education Fund, Shining a Light (Jan. 2012 p. 1)

“….[V]oters don’t choose lawmakers – lawmakers routinely choose voters.  Drawn by partisan legislatures, most districts now are truly one party fiefdoms.”
–          Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School

JUNEAU – Today Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) filed a constitutional amendment to end Alaska’s process of partisan, one-party-controlled redistricting.  If passed and ratified by Alaskan voters, the bi-partisan redistricting legislation would let Alaska join nine other states with either non-partisan or bi-partisan redistricting, according to a report by the legislature’s Legislative Research Services.

“This legislation offers Alaskans a fair, bi-partisan approach to developing future redistricting boards,” said Kawasaki. 

“Alaskans deserve real democracy, not election results that political parties pre-arrange,” said Gara.

The legislation would create a bi-partisan redistricting process in Alaska.  Each of the two largest parties picks an even number of members, and those members choose a tiebreaking member.  If the four members cannot agree on the fifth member, then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is charged with picking a person the Justice certifies as bi-partisan. 

Gordon S. Harrison, former executive director of the Alaska Redistricting Board, stated in a report called The Aftermath of In Re 2001 Redistricting Cases: The Need For a New Constitutional Scheme for Legislative Redistricting in Alaska: “Toleration of partisan gerrymandering is unfortunate because gerrymandering is election fraud, no less pernicious than stuffing the ballot box or intimidating or bribing voters.”

“Intentionally tilting election lines in favor of one party puts party politics ahead of the public’s right to free elections, and nationally, both parties have done it since Governor Elbridge Gerry, the Father of Gerrymandering, cheated the first time in 1812,” said Gara.

Under current Alaska law, the governor appoints two members to the redistricting board, the Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives appoints one, and the President of the Alaska Senate appoints one.  The Alaska Supreme Court picks the fifth member.  For the 2012 board, Governor Parnell picked two Republicans, and the House and Senate added another Republican each, creating the four to one republican majority on the redistricting board.

“I’ve heard the argument that election lines should be party controlled because both parties have done it in the past.  That’s not a reason to perpetuate injustice,” said Gara. 

Lois Epstein, board member with Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG) said, “It is never in the best interest of the public for a single political party to control the creation of legislative districts.  This legislation provides an avenue for a bi-partisan redistricting process.”

The joint resolution will be assigned a bill number and referred to committees during today’s House Floor session.

Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School: www.brennancenter.org/issues/redistricting

Legislative Research Services report:
http://akhouse.org/docs/060313_Nonpartisan-Redistricting.pdf

Read the House Joint Resolution language:
http://akhouse.org/docs/022614_HJR-Redistricting.pdf

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