On Nov. 10, the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted its final legislative district boundaries. Pending any potential lawsuits or challenges to the adopted maps, House District 39, which contains much of Western Alaska, will be sizably smaller.
The current district map that has been in place since 2013, puts the entire Norton Sound region, St. Lawrence Island and the majority of Lower Yukon River communities into the same House District. It also included Interior communities to the east, like Galena and Huslia, following the Yukon River beyond Ruby. Nulato, Koyukuk, Galena, Ruby and Huslia will all now be part of House District 36-R.HD39-SDT
Melanie Bahnke of Kawerak and the rest of the Redistricting Board have elected to remove those Interior communities from House District 39. This was done in part to achieve the constitutionally required population number of 18,335 people per district, based on the latest Census data from 2020. According to that same data, the Nome Census area gained about 500 residents compared to the previous count in 2010.
In addition to losing a few communities, House District 39 also gained some. The board’s final plan brings Pilot Station, Marshall and Russian Mission into the same House District as the rest of the Lower Yukon School District communities. Alakanuk, Emmonak, Hooper Bay, Marshall, Mountain Village, Nunam Iqua, Pitkas Point, Pilot Station, Scammon Bay and Russian Mission will all be part of House District 39 based on the final maps drawn by the Redistricting Board.
District 39 and a few others set by the final plan are, “in compliance with the Federal Voting Rights Act and would preserve the ability of Alaska Native voters to elect candidates of their choice,” according to the independent legal counsel for the Board.
During the Board’s final negotiations last week, allegations of potential gerrymandering that could open the plan to lawsuits were brought up. Ultimately, Bahnke and fellow Board member Nicole Borromeo voted against the proclamation plan due to the pairing of two separate districts from Eagle River with two areas that cover South Muldoon in Anchorage and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
“We deserve better as Alaskans, whether we’re Republicans, or Democrats, or Independents or undeclared, rural Alaskans, or urban,” Bahnke said after the final vote on Wednesday.
(Click the video link below to watch the full video recording of the Alaska Redistricting Board’s final meeting on Nov. 10.)
Image at top: Final map of House District 39 based on the Alaska Redistricting Board’s proclamation plan passed last week. Map courtesy of Redistricting Board, 2021.