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Aleutians East Borough opposes reapportionment plan

July 1st, 2011 | Bristol Bay Times Staff Print this article   Email this article  

Assembly members of the Aleutians East Borough are flatly opposed to the reapportionment of the borough's communities in the 2011 Alaska redistricting plan.

They made that clear on June 30, voting unanimously at Sand Point to oppose the plan approved June 13 by the Alaska Redistricting Board.

The final plan divides the borough and the region into House District 36 and House District 37, and senate Districts R and S.

Prior to the plan being adopted, AEB Mayor Stanley Mack corresponded and testified in front of the Alaska Redistricting Board about the significance of keeping borough communities intact and within a common house and senate district.

"I informed the board that community leaders and residents want our District 37 to remain as it is now," said Mack.

"The Aleutians region is a special place. Our communities are tied together with similar economies based on commercial and subsistence fishing. We are mostly Aleuts who share a rich cultural heritage. But the board's final plan cuts Akutan off from the rest of our Borough communities. This is unacceptable to us."

"We are watching to see what will develop with lawsuits and what our options might be, said Laura Tanis, borough communications manager. "If they decide to go to court over this, we may possibly join in the litigation"

Many Southwest Alaskan communities were surprised by the draft final plan because every map published by the board up until June 6th kept the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutians Islands together in one house district.

"I participated in the public process, as many others did. But in the end, the final plan doesn't seem to reflect the public's input," Mack said.

According to the final redistricting plan, Akutan would be part of District 37-S along with Unalaska, Adak, the Pribilofs and Bethel. The remainder of the borough would be part of District 36-R along with the Lake and Peninsula Borough, including communities extending east past Yakutat, north of Fairbanks and as distant as Crooked Creek, Stony River, Tyonek and Beluga.

The AEB's resolution quotes Article 6, Section 6 of the Alaska Constitution, which states in part that "each house district shall be formed of contiguous and compact territory containing as nearly as practicable a relatively integrated socio-economic area." The resolution further states that the 2011 redistricting plan is contrary to Article 6, Section 6 of the Alaska Constitution and ignores the public process.

In 1991, the redistricting board divided the Aleutian Islands between two house districts. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled this separation violated the state constitution. Every redistricting plan since statehood has been declared unconstitutional, at least in part.

The resolution states that the 2011 AEB Assembly's opposition may be registered by the possible filing of an appropriate action in Superior Court.

Copies of this resolution have been forwarded to the Alaska Redistricting Board, Gov. Sean Parnell, the president of the Alaska State Senate, the speaker of the House and to the Department of Justice.

Any qualified voter may file with the Alaska Superior Court within thirty days of final plan adoption to compel the Redistricting Board to correct errors. The board will reconvene on July 18, to address any legal issues.

The Aleutians East Borough is the municipal government encompassing the southwestern portion of the Alaska Peninsula and a number of the easternmost Aleutian Islands. It extends 300 miles along the eastern side of the Alaska Peninsula and includes the communities of Sand Point, Cold Bay, King Cove, False Pass, Akutan and Nelson Lagoon. The communities are dependent on subsistence and commercial fishing.

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