Ballot Measure 3
Constitutional Amendment to Reorganize Reapportionment Board


BALLOT LANGUAGE

This measure changes the name, power and membership of the reapportionment board. Under existing law, the governor selects the reapportionment board. With the advice of the board, the governor draws the boundaries of election districts after each federal census. This measure creates a redistricting board and gives it the power to draw boundaries for 40 House and 20 Senate districts. Two members of the board would be chosen by the governor, and one each by the House speaker, the Senate president, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The board would have 90 days to act after being appointed.

SHOULD THIS AMENDMENT BE ADOPTED?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]

Votes cast by members of the Twentieth Alaska Legislature on final passage:

House: 27 yeas, 13 nays, all members present
Senate: 15 yeas, 5 nays, all members present


LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS AGENCY SUMMARY

This measure amends the state constitution. It changes the process for setting boundaries used in electing the state legislature. A plan to set the boundaries is called a redistricting plan. A new plan is required after each ten-year official U.S. census.

Currently, the governor sets the boundaries of election districts and senate districts with the advice of a board selected by the governor. If this measure passes, instead of the governor, a board of five people would make the plan. The board would be selected as follows and in this order: two by the governor, one by the president of the state senate, one by the speaker of the state house of representatives, and one by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alaska. The board would be selected in the year of the census. It would be selected before September of that year. The members would be residents of the state for at least one year. The members could not be public employees or officials when selected or while on the board. At least one board member would be a resident of each judicial district that existed on January 1, 1999. The members would serve until a final plan had been adopted and all legal challenges to the plan resolved. The members of the board could not run for election to the legislature in the first general election after they set the boundaries. The board would employ or contract for a lawyer.

The board would propose at least one redistricting plan not later than 30 days after the official reporting of the ten-year U.S. census. The board would hold public hearings on the plan or plans. No later than 90 days after official reporting of the ten-year U.S. census, the board would adopt a final plan. At least three members of the board would have to vote for the plan for it to be adopted. A legal challenge to the plan would be given priority in the state courts. If a court finds the plan invalid, the court would return the plan to the board to have the board create a new plan. If the new plan is also invalid, the court could refer the plan to the board again.

The current structure of the legislature would not be changed. The number of house districts would be fixed at 40, with each house district to have one representative in the legislature. The number of senate districts would be fixed at 20, with each senate district to have one senator. As nearly as practicable, each house district would have an equal number of residents and each senate district would be composed of two contiguous house districts. Under the amendment all residents, not just civilian residents, would be counted for the plan. Language would be changed to reflect federal "one person one vote" law for both house and senate districts.

The amendment gets rid of the language that described the election districts as they were right after statehood.

The changes made by this amendment apply only to redistricting plans and proclamations adopted in or after 2001.


FULL TEXT OF PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

[SENATE CS FOR CS FOR HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 44(JUD)]

* Section 1. Article VI, sec. 1, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:

* Sec. 2. Article VI, sec. 2, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
* Sec. 3. Article VI, sec. 3, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
* Sec. 4. Article VI, sec. 4, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
* Sec. 5. Article VI, sec. 6, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
* Sec. 6. Article VI, sec. 8, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
* Sec. 7. Article VI, sec. 9, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
* Sec. 8. Article VI, sec. 10, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
* Sec. 9. Article VI, sec. 11, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
* Sec. 10. Article XI, sec. 3, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:
* Sec. 11. Article XV, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended by adding a new section to read:
* Sec. 12. Article VI, secs. 5 and 7, and Article XIV, Constitution of the State of Alaska, are repealed.

* Sec. 13. The amendments proposed by this resolution shall be placed before the voters of the state at the next general election in conformity with art. XIII, sec. 1, Constitution of the State of Alaska, and the election laws of the state.


STATEMENT IN SUPPORT

Every ten years our state constitution appropriately requires that the boundaries of our election districts be adjusted based upon any significant population changes as reflected by the U.S. Census.

Some of the reapportionment and redistricting provisions of the Alaska Constitution have been outdated for more than 25 years. U.S. and Alaska Supreme Court decisions have struck down portions excluding military personnel from reapportionment population counts, and have extended the one-person, one-vote requirement of the equal protection clause of the XIVth amendment to state senate districts as well as house districts. The Alaska Supreme Court has been inviting the legislature to amend the Constitution since at least 1972 in these areas. This Constitutional Amendment does that.

Additionally, Alaska is the only state in the union which places the reapportionment and redistricting powers solely in the governor's office. Every other state has some form of legislative oversight or the legislature has the power itself to do reapportioning.

This proposal to amend our constitution keeps a five-member redistricting board, but only two members are appointed by the Governor and one member each by the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. This process of board appointment is intended to produce balanced, professionally-drawn districting plans.

The board would be required, as it is now, to issue its plan within 90 days. An additional 90 days allowing the governor to alter this plan has been eliminated. This will provide more time if necessary to deal with legal challenges and eliminate the opportunity for partisan alterations of the board's redistricting plan.

Our current procedure has produced redistricting plans which have been subject to criticism of being partisan and gerrymandered rather than creating redistricting plans based on bipartisan fairness and objectivity. The existing system of constitutional provisions has spawned litigation after every decennial census since statehood, the most recent of which was exceptionally contentious and required the supreme court to cause the reapportionment plan to be drawn, without any input from the board, rather than risk delaying or missing the next election.

This amendment also clarifies that representatives and senators shall be elected from single-member districts as we currently do and eliminates over 13 pages of unnecessary constitutional language specifically delineating the exact boundary of each election district.

Representatives Brian S. Porter and Eldon Mulder
Alaska State Legislature


STATEMENT IN OPPOSITION

Framers of Alaska's constitution recognized the unique qualities of our state - vast geography, isolated and diverse populations - required an Alaskan approach to reapportionment, or the drawing of legislative election districts. Borrowing the experience of other states, they designed a system to produce fair representation, consistent with the basic principles of separation of powers.

As a result, the executive branch since Statehood has been responsible for drawing election districts because the governor is Alaska's only elected official without a direct interest in the shape of individual election districts. To minimize the partisanship of election lines, the framers kept the judiciary removed from creation of election districts. Only in that way could the judiciary remain a neutral arbitrator to evaluate the fairness of the reapportionment process.

The current system may not be perfect, but it has weathered the tests of time and court challenge. While it may be in need of fine-tuning, replacing the existing system with the proposed system would create more problems than it solves. A close look at how the proposed amendment changes this process reveals substantive and procedural flaws. These flaws make the amendment unworthy of passage. It doesn't fit Alaska's unique needs.

SUBSTANTIVE FLAWS

1. Allows legislators to be directly involved in who determines the legislative lines they are subject to when seeking office.

2. Violates basic principles of separation of powers by mingling decision-making between all three branches of government, thereby removing appropriate checks and balances.

3. Makes the judiciary an active participant and, when different parties control the Governor's mansion and the State Legislature, a single voice from the judiciary controls the outcome of reapportionment.

4. Increases partisanship by adding power to the President and Speaker, which can cause or give the appearance that it is causing legislators to curry favor with the presiding officers.

5. There's no proof it will produce better representation for Alaskans.

PROCEDURAL FLAWS

1. It is not the product of careful deliberation and crafting that should characterize a change to Alaska's constitution. In fact, the amendment was passed on the final day of the legislative session without undergoing public scrutiny.

2. It's a political compromise - not a well-considered change to our carefully crafted constitution. What prompted it was a political power grab attempt by certain legislators who didn't want to be subject to changes in their election boundaries.

The current system is the product of deliberation tempered with experience. Before modifying it, two questions should be asked: Will the new system produce better legislators, and is it consistent with principle of separation of powers? Since we cannot answer "yes" to both questions, we recommend a "no" vote.

Alaska Democratic Party
Deborah Bonito, Chair
(907) 258-3050


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