CASE SUMMARY

On December 10, 2021, the Municipality of Skagway Borough and an Alaska voter filed a state lawsuit against the Alaska Redistricting Board and its members, challenging several of the Board's actions during the redistricting process and certain districts within the Board's adopted legislative plans as violating state constitutional and statutory provisions related to redistricting and transparency. First, the plaintiffs allege that the Board violated the Alaska Open Meetings Act by holding work and executive sessions closed to the public during which time the Board made changes to redistricting plans, discussed the senate pairing process, and made agreements on pairings. Similarly, the plaintiffs assert that by reaching a final agreement on changes to the plan and senate pairings during these closed sessions, the Board violated the Alaska Constitution's requirement for public hearings on proposed plans. As to the districts themselves, plaintiffs allege that by combining Skagway with dissimilar municipalities and separating socio-economically integrated communities, the Board violated the Alaska Constitution's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. Finally, they assert that several of the House districts and related Senate districts violate the Alaska Constitution's redistricting criteria relating to compactness, contiguity, respect for political subdivision and geographic boundaries, and preserving communities of interest. Plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that the Board's actions violate the Alaska Constitution and Open Meetings Act, a court order declaring the Board's adopted final plans null and void and barring the state from using them in any future elections, and an order requiring the Board to either correct the issues in the present plans or to adopt new, lawful redistricting plans.

On December 14, 2021, the presiding judges of the Alaska Superior Court issued a statewide order consolidating the 5 pending challenges to Alaska's adopted legislative plans and transferring their venue to the Anchorage Superior Court. On February 15, 2022, the Alaska Superior Court issued an opinion holding the Board violated the constitutional process and Open Meetings Act when creating the final Senate plan and violated the plaintiffs' Due Process rights in its creation of Senate District K and House District 3, but rejected the plaintiffs other claims. The court first found the Board violated Article VI, Section 10 of the Alaska Constitution by failing to adopt proposed Senate pairings by the constitutional deadline for proposed plans and also by subsequently failing to hold public hearings on proposed pairings prior to their adoption. Next, the court ruled the Board's use of executive sessions and their adoption of final Senate pairings during those sessions violated Alaska's Open Meetings Act. Relatedly, the court also found the Board violated the plaintiffs' Due Process rights under the Alaska Constitution and the public input requirements of Article VI, Section 10 by failing to take a "hard look" at House District 3 and Senate District K in light of the clear weight of public testimony. Finally, the court ruled that the challenged districts all complied with the Alaska Constitution's compactness, contiguity, municipal boundaries, and communities of interest provisions. The court remanded the legislative plan back to the Board with directions to remedy the issues identified in its opinion. The plaintiffs appealed this decision to the Alaska Supreme Court on March 2, 2022.

On March 25, the Alaska Supreme Court issued its decision affirming the Superior Court's determination that House Districts 29 and 30 did not violate the Alaska Constitution but reversing as to House District 36 on the grounds it was non-compact without adequate justification. The Court also affirmed the Superior Court's finding that Senate District K's pairing of House districts constituted an unconstitutional political gerrymander in violation of the Alaska Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. Finally, the Court reversed the Superior Court's remand for further proceedings under the court's "hard look" analysis as to House Districts 3 and 4, stating there was no need for further work on those districts as both are constitutionally valid. Having affirmed the invalidation of House District 36 and Senate District K's House district pairings, the Court remanded the plan back to the Alaska Redistricting Board to correct the violations identified.

On April 13, the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted revised state Senate and state House plans and issued a proclamation certifying the maps as final. Five days later, several plaintiffs in the consolidated cases filed a motion with the superior court to reject the Board's revised proclamation plan for failure to comply with the Alaska Supreme Court's remand order. They assert the new Senate District K pairings still constitute an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and are asking the court to issue an order adopting instead one of the alternative configurations proposed at one of the Board's remedial plan public hearings.

For a complete list of filings in this case, see the litigation page for Matanuska-Susitna Borough v. Alaska Redistricting Board.

Related Cases: Calista Corp. v. Alaska Redistricting Board; City of Valdez v. Alaska Redistricting Board; Matanuska-Susitna Borough v. Alaska Redistricting Board; & Wilson v. Alaska Redistricting Board.

CASE LIBRARY

Alaska Superior Court, Third Judicial District at Anchorage - No. 3AN-21-8869CI [formerly in First Judicial District at Juneau - No. 1JU-21-00944CI]

Alaska Supreme Court - No. S-18332 [together with Nos. S18328, S-18329, S-18330, S-18332]

Alaska Superior Court, Third Judicial District at Anchorage - No. 3AN-21-08869CI