On December 9, 2021, a group of Alaskan voters filed a state lawsuit against the Alaska Redistricting Board, challenging the Board's adopted legislative redistricting plan and several of the Board's actions during the process as violating several state constitutional and statutory provisions relating to redistricting and transparency. First, the plaintiffs assert that the Board violated the Alaska Open Meetings Act by holding work and executive sessions closed to the public during which time the Board's legal counsel gave presentations on redistricting laws and the senate pairing process and the commissioners made agreements on pairings. Similarly, the plaintiffs assert that by reaching a final agreement on 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 certain senate pairings were "egregiously irrational and arbitrary" in violation of the U.S. and Alaska Constitution's Due Process Clause and the Alaska Constitution's equal protection clause. Finally, they assert that the Eagle River districts and East Anchorage communities with which they were paired violate the Alaska Constitution's contiguity requirement. Plaintiffs are seeking a judicial declaration that the Board's actions violated state constitutional and statutory provisions and a court order declaring the Eagle River Senate Districts and Anchorage pairings unconstitutionally void. They are also requesting the court direct the Board to adopt the plaintiffs' proposed Bahnke East Anchorage/Eagle River Pairings or, alternatively, lawful pairings that place both Eagle River House districts in a single senate district and pair East Anchorage house districts with contiguous communities of interest.

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 that Senate District K, which pairs the Eagle River Valley and South Muldoon, was unconstitutional. 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 rejected the plaintiffs' claims that certain districts violated the Alaska Constitution's contiguity requirements. The court remanded the legislative plan back to the Board with directions to remedy the issues identified in its opinion. The Board 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.

On May 16, the Superior Court issued an order invalidating the amended redistricting plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The court found that when pairing the House districts to form Senate Districts E and L, the Board acted with improper political intent and deprived the voters of the underlying House districts of their right to an equally powerful vote in violation of the Alaska Constitution's Equal Protection clause. Noting the time constraints given the looming 2022 primary election, the court ordered the Board to implement the proposed remedial plan "Option 2" for interim use in the 2022 elections and remanded the plan back to the Board to remedy the constitutional violations and adopt a new plan for use in the remainder of the decade. The Board appealed this ruling to the Alaska Supreme Court the following day. On May 19, the Alaska Supreme Court granted a stay on the superior court's ruling pending further order of the Court. On May 24, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's order requiring the adoption of "Option 2" for interim use in the 2022 elections.

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

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


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

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