• Case of Note

In re 2021 Redistricting Cases

Docket number
18332, 18419, 7646

Five state-court lawsuits filed by Alaska voters, various boroughs, a municipality, and a regional corporation contended that Alaska’s new legislative maps were racially discriminatory and a partisan gerrymander in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and/or the Alaska Constitution. The suits alleged that the maps intentionally diluted the voting power of those who lived within Alaska’s lowest-income and most racially diverse parts of the state by pairing groups of voters in Anchorage, Valdez, Skagway, Calista, Matanuska-Susitna, and the surrounding areas that have little in common. According to the plaintiffs, to split communities of interest, the Alaska Redistricting Board drew district lines that were irrational and arbitrary.

On February 15, 2022, a trial court held that the board violated the Alaska Constitution when drawing the new legislative maps, finding that the board failed to take public testimony into account when drafting House Districts 3 and 4 and state Senate District K, failed to follow proper procedures when adopting the senate map, and intentionally discriminated against East Anchorage residents who do not always favor Republicans when drawing Senate District K.

On March 25, 2022, the Alaska Supreme Court partly affirmed the decision of the trial court, concluding that Senate District K is in fact a partisan gerrymander. It reversed the trial court’s determination that the board did not adequately take public testimony into account when creating House Districts 3 and 4. It also reversed the trial court’s holding that House District 36 passed constitutional muster since there was no adequate justification for the district’s noncompact shape.

The board enacted a revised legislative plan on April 13, 2022. Several plaintiffs from the original lawsuits as well as plaintiffs who intervened after the Alaska Supreme Court rendered its ruling objected before the trial court, arguing that the revised state senate plan was also a partisan gerrymander because it unconstitutionally increased Republican representation within the senate by splitting a suburb of Anchorage into two districts.

On May 16, 2022, a trial court agreed with the objectors and held that the revised state senate map also was a partisan gerrymander in violation of the Alaska Constitution, finding that the board intentionally discriminated against Anchorage residents by creating two safe Republican senate seats within the region. The court implemented an interim map for the 2022 election cycle but remanded the matter back to the board to adopt a remedial map for the rest of the decade.

On May 24, 2022, the Alaska Supreme Court denied the board’s appeal as to whether it once again gerrymandered the senate map, upholding the trial court’s order implementing an interim senate plan for the 2022 election cycle. The Court, however, stayed the lower court’s order that the board enact a revised plan for the balance of the decade. On April 21, 2023, the Court issued an opinion further explaining its reasoning, declaring that “we expressly recognize that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional under the Alaska Constitution.” The Court then held that splitting the Anchorage area into two senate districts violated Alaska equal protection doctrine as an “unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.” The Court gave the board 90 days to demonstrate why a trial court should not implement the interim plan for the remainder of the decade.

Sole footer logo

A project of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law