What subject could bring together the republican and democratic parties as well as the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University to co-sponsor an event? Legislative redistricting.
Where the boundaries of districts are set after the 2000 Census is a critical issue, according to Vic Fischer, signer of the Alaska Constitution in 1959 and a UAA professor of Public Affairs and professor emeritus.
Fischer, also a member of Alaska Common Ground, the non-profit public information group hosting the forum, said legislative redistricting is critical for the future of Alaska because “what will be done this year will effect the composition of the legislature for the next 10 years.”
The issues of fairness and minority issues are also involved in redistricting.
“There are important issues of fairness in representation of geographic areas and minority interests. It can effect the balance between the major parties – Republican and Democrat. And the composition of the legislature effects the laws passed by the legislature and the decisions made and the policies of the state,” Fischer said.
This isn't the first time that redistricting has caused a stir.
“Tuckerman Babcock, executive director of the last redistricting board, was accused of gerrymandering the districts in favor of the Republican Party,” Fischer said. “Twenty years ago, the Democrats were charged with gerrymandering in favor the Democrats.”
For this reason, Fischer is excited to have Babcock at the forum to discuss the issue of gerrymandering.
“Heads of the two parties are also going to be there,” Fischer said.
The Census Bureau is required by law to transmit detailed population figures to the states by April 1, 2001, for use in the redistricting process. The Department of Justice has to approve every state's redistricting plan.
Brian Porter, UAA alum and speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, and Vic Fischer will open the forum, set for Saturday, Feb. 24 from noon to 4 p.m. in the Arts Building Auditorium. Several other speakers and an audience discussion will follow.
There is no charge for the forum, which is open to the public.
The next meeting of the Board is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 26, 2001.
Other sponsors of the forum are:
- The Alaska League of Women Voters
- The Alaska Moderate Republican Party
- The Alaska Women's Political Caucus
- The College Republican Federation of Alaska and
- The Young Democrats of Alaska
For more information, visit the Redistricting Board in Anchorage at http://www.alaskaredistricting.org/ or for information on how other states do redistricting, visit the Center for Voting and Democracy at http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting.
How the Legislative Redistricting Board is formed
A five-member, civilian Redistricting Board draws state legislative districts in Alaska (there is only one congressional district). Two members are appointed to the commission by the governor, two by the legislature, and one by the Chief Justice of Alaska's highest court. All four regions of the state must be represented on the committee and no state employees or state officials may be commission members. The governor has no veto power over the plan.