What is redistricting?
Redistricting is the constitutionally required redrawing of legislative districts that occurs every 10 years – with population changes, people moving, and population booms, our state and nation can change drastically. This process occurs after the census data is processed and given to state redistricting boards, these boards use public input and the data they receive to draw the legislative districts for the next decade. Redistricting is crucial because it is our representation in governing bodies, state policy, funding, and our boroughs and communities are all impacted directly by this process.
The end goal of the redrawn districts is to have districts that are all roughly the same size, physically compact and contiguous, and socio-economically similar – this ensures that one person = one vote. This redistricting process ensures that we elect our representatives, not the other way around.
Our relatives and friends at FAI and NARF co-hosted a webinar where they discussed in detail what exactly redistricting is and what it means for our native communities and the state as a whole, you can watch that, HERE. One sticking point that Liz La quen náay Medicine Crow, President/CEO at FAI talked about is that you do not need to be an expert in this process to be engaged – you just need to care about your people, community, and state. We agree, together we can be sure that our people are seen, heard, and engaged in this process. We believe that Native voices and our traditional knowledge need to be heard at every level of decision making.
Why is the redistricting process so important?
How and where districts are drawn will influence who in your community can run for office and who can be elected to your local school board, city council or assembly, state legislature and congress. It can influence whether or not your elected officials respond to your needs, such as acknowledging tribal sovereignty to protecting our lands and waters. Our elected officials make decisions that affect our daily lives – decisions on hunting and fishing, the state budget which determines which roads and airports are funded, how and where education funds are spent, and much more. We need to ensure that each district is drawn that will allow for the people to elect representatives who are truly connected and part of the community they are representing.
Alaska Natives make up 22% of our population, but we only have 6 Native seats in our state legislature – this isn’t equitable representation and goes back to the essence of why redistricting is so important: redistricting is our representation, our voice, and our power in these decision making tables.
Who are the members on the board?
John Binkely (Board Chair), Bethany Marcum, Budd Simpson, Melanie Bahnke, and Nicole Borromeo. You can read more about them here.
What are the requirements for maps?
You can draw your own maps with the same information that the board has by visiting https://www.akredistrict.org/create/ with this information, you can draw maps to visualize how the board and third parties submitted maps. Things to keep in mind that districts must:
- Be contiguous – not cut up, it should be one defined area bordering the other areas
- Compact – Dense or a small perimeter in proportion to the area enclosed
- Socio-economic integration – What are some of the ways that our communities relate and rely on each other? What makes us a community? Unfortunately, the current mapping tool available to us (and the board) does not include race data – District- is a free tool that does have it, so you can cross reference the data here. NPA is voicing our concerns to the board over not having this critical information available to them as decision makers as well as to the public for input.
- Equal population – as close to 18,335 people per district as possible – 10% total statewide deviation allowed – but the greater the deviation, the more votes are diluted – this is also why redistricting is so important, our vote is our voice, and redistricting has the power to amplify or dilute our voice.
What are the current adopted maps?
The board adopted six map drafts:
Map 3 – Drafted by the board
Map 4 – Drafted by the board
Doyon Coalition Map – is a coalition of Doyon, Ltd., Tanana Chiefs Conference, Fairbanks Native Association, Sealaska, and Ahtna.
For Fair and Equitable Redistricting Map – AFFER is an organization that was formed to provide technical support and consulting services to Alaskan organizations needing to participate in the Statewide redistricting process.
Senate Minority Map– is drafted by the Alaska senate minority democrats
How can I compare these maps? What is the best one for my community and the state?
The board staff created a very useful tool to overlay the maps. It is recommended that you view the maps 2 at a time and compare the regions you are interested in, for example: Map 3 v Map 4 viewing as a whole, then using the tool on the left to zoom into your region/house district and continue down the list, then compare Map 3 v Doyon Map to see which map makes the most sense for your community.
As an example, below is District 38 – YK Delta.
First, going to the board’s interactive map, then clicking the little box on the left to open the map, and then clicking map 3 and 4 to compare. District 38 is the same in both of these maps.
Then moving onto the Doyon Coalition map and comparing it to board map 3
And make note of the differences in the draft maps. Some communities are in different districts. Which one do we have historical ties with? Which ones do we have family in? Which ones do we have economic ties with? Which hubs do we do most business with? These are all things the board needs to know.
You can do this for all 6 maps and make notes about how these maps impact your community.
For a high level overview, you can view all 6 maps here. The board created region-specific map comparisons more densely populated areas of the state: Anchorage, Eagle River, Matsu, Kenai, Fairbanks, and Southeast
The best map for the state is what the board is trying to decide, they need to hear from locals from each region in the state to piece together what the map should look like.
What are our relatives in other communities asking?
The redistricting board has all of their meetings recorded that you can watch, HERE. But unfortunately the community visits were not streamed, only written and recorded testimony will be posted later. A few notes after a quick glance of the hundreds of written comments:
- Hooper Bay residents have called in and asked be integrated with Bethel, not Nome anymore
- Buckland and Deering have asked that the Northwest Arctic Borough remain whole and to not move these communities into a new district
- The Doyon region would like to remain in one district, or as few as possible
- Eagle River and East Anchorage do not want to be combined into one district
- Kenai Peninsula does not want to be continued to be combined with south Anchorage
These notes were only developed after quickly scanning through the public testimony, not an exhaustive list of everything. But this does show how important public comment is! In addition to making sure the board hears you in their maps, most of these maps end up being litigated in the courts – the courts also look at these public comments.
How can I provide public testimony and what is the timeline?
Although redistricting only happens once every ten years, this process of adopting maps goes by fast. The Alaska Redistricting Board adopted the following meeting schedule:
August 12th – Board receives data, 30 & 90 day cycles begin – the board must adopt one plan within 30 days and a final plan within 90 days
September 7 – 9, 2021: Map Drawing Work Sessions
September 10, 2021: Discussion and Adoption of Draft Plan(s)
September 11: Board must adopt AT LEAST one draft map
September 17, 2021: Extended deadline for third party groups submitting maps
September 21, 2021: Discussion and Adoption of Additional Draft Plan(s)
November 1, 2021: Suggested date to get in all public testimony to the board
November 10, 2021 : Board must approve final mapping plan
Additionally the redistricting board is announcing community visits to hear from members of the public about the draft maps:
Public Hearing in Anchorage
The Board will be hosting an Open House on Wednesday, October 27 from 5pm – 7pm at the Lakefront Hotel, 4800 Spenard Road, Anchorage.
Public Hearing in Utqiagvik
The Board will be hosting an Open House on Thursday, October 28 from 4:30 – 6:30pm at the North Slope Borough Building Assembly Chambers, 1274 Agvik Street, Barrow.
Public Hearing: Statewide Dial-in
The Board will be hosting a statewide dial-in public hearing on Saturday, October 30 from 10am – 4pm. Dial toll-free statewide: 844-586-9085, from Juneau: 586-9085, from Anchorage: 563-9085
Public Hearing in Cordova
The Board will be hosting an Open House on Monday, November 1 from 4pm – 6pm at the Cordova Center, 601 1st Street, Cordova.
How can I give effective testimony? What will this format be like?
NPA co-hosted a webinar on providing effective public testimony to the board with Alaskans For Fair Redistricting. This group has been attending all of the public testimony meetings and made note of the best ways to get your comments across to the board:
- Speak to what you know – you are the expert of your community, not the board. Let them know about your home and the demographics, what makes your community unique, how you are similar or not to your neighboring communities/neighborhoods
- Speak to Existing Plans – the board has adopted 6 working draft maps, it would be beneficial to the board to hear what you like and dislike about them, which one you think is best for the state, and why
- Be Specific – put your comments into context. Talk about natural physical divides in your community, socioeconomic differences and similarities, and how the maps impact your area
- Get It In Writing – Most of the final maps eventually end up in court, these written comments help show the judge what the public thinks. Writing also allows you to go into more detail than in-person normally allows.
You can watch the webinar, HERE.
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert to be engaged – you just need to care about your community and state. Some of the testimony has included one emailed sentence, and that is plenty!
The Redistricting board had “traditional” meetings during the map drafting phase where there were call in numbers, the meetings were recorded and live streamed, and everything was recorded and on the record. The board announced that for the regional meetings, they will be holding informal meetings. NPA asked the board for clarification on what to expect, here are their recommendations/thoughts:
· The meetings will be in a hybrid “Open House” format with large, printed maps displayed while board members circulate among the participants to receive feedback and engage in discussions. This also allows for the public to come and go as they please, mitigating COVID exposure as much as possible and providing more flexibility for busy schedules. If the attendees want an opportunity to address the board members present, the Open House will be followed by the opportunity to give public testimony “Town Hall” style. Timing of each portion will be decided at the meeting based on input received from the attendees.
NOTE: These meetings will not be teleconferenced or streamed, however public testimony will be recorded. There will be additional opportunities for public testimony for those who are not in attendance at the meetings – dates will be noticed and sent via email
· There will also be no queueing – people can come and go to suit their schedules, spend more time with maps that are of interest to them, and should we have to limit the number of people for COVID reasons, they will not miss anything because there will not be a formal presentation.
· Board members also wanted to give Alaskans a less formal opportunity to engage in more dialogue instead of simply giving testimony without being able to have their questions answered.
· Not all board members will be at all meetings. Therefore, public testimony will mostly be electronic to allow it to be compiled quickly and distributed to all board members for reference as soon as possible. Staff will not be recording everything that is said to each board member, rather testimony will be taken in the following ways:
· Computers will be available for people to type comments into our Map Comments system;
· Staff will be on hand to transcribe comments into our Map Comments system;
· We will have QR codes that take someone directly to the Map Comments portal so they can write comments while they are there or after the meeting from their own device;
· Forms will be available to write testimony; and
· For those that would prefer to give spoken testimony, we will have a recording device available to take oral testimony for staff to distribute to board members after the meeting and transcribe for the public record
· Email testimony received after the meeting will also be included in the compiled in the testimony packets.
NPA strongly encourages anyone attending these meetings to: ask the board staff for your testimony to be recorded and entered into the record and to also email your testimony afterwards. Additionally, NPA has been asking the board staff to make call-in testimony an option. Please feel free to email the board as well if you’d like the ability to call in with your region.
The board staff also recommended the public get their written testimony in by November 1st!
Where can I find out more information?
https://www.akredistrict.org/ – is the board’s website
https://vote.narf.org/redistricting/ – Narf has put together useful information about this process
https://www.districtbuilder.org/ – free, open source redistricting tool
https://districtr.org/ – another free, open source tool for redistricting – with race data