Two members of the Alaska Redistricting Board are once again raising red flags about the actions of the board’s conservative majority, worrying that the board may intentionally delay the legal process in order to maintain the maps heading into the 2022 elections.
The Alaska Redistricting Board met on Wednesday to review the five lawsuits challenging the maps approved last month. Most of the hearing was behind closed doors in executive session due to the pending legal battles but closed with the creation of a litigation subcommittee with only conservative members.
On a 3-2 vote, the board’s conservative majority of members John Binkley, Budd Simpson and Bethany Marcum appointed Binkley and Simpson to the litigation subcommittee.
It made for yet another contentious meeting for the Alaska Redistricting Board with fierce opposition by members Nicole Borromeo and Melanie Bahnke, who both opposed the final maps after the conservative majority approved senate pairings for the Anchorage area without any explanation or defense. Those pairings—which saw the staunchly conservative Eagle River’s two House districts split into two separate Senate districts—have the net result of a Senate map that’s more friendly for conservatives.
With a legal challenge aimed directly at those Senate pairings with the hope of reversing them ahead of the 2022 election, Bahnke and Borromeo argued the conservative majority on the litigation subcommittee was an improper consolidation of power for the divided board and could lead to unilateral action that could slow and delay the pending litigation.
“Any delay on the part of the board to slow down the litigation process, I’m going to be watching for as a board member,” Borromeo said following the vote.
During the 2010 redistricting process, the courts ordered only minor tweaks to the election district maps ahead of the 2012 elections and conceded it was unrealistic for a wholesale rewrite to be completed in time.
Bahnke and Borromeo had argued that Borromeo, a top attorney for the Alaska Native Federation, should be included on the subcommittee because of her experience as a lawyer. As that ran into opposition from the board, they also argued that the litigation could be handled by the five-member board rather than just Binkley and Simpson.
Binkley, as he has done throughout the final meetings of the redistricting process, dismissed their concerns.
“I don’t think it’s a requirement or necessary or even important that the committee be exclusively attorneys,” Binkley said. “I think that general knowledge is important.”
Board member Marcum argued that Bahnke and Borromeo shouldn’t be on the subcommittee because they opposed the Senate pairings that she had drawn.
Following the vote, Bahnke called out the board for its partisanship.
“Talk about naked partisanship,” Bahnke said. “That is why I said the emperor has no clothes.”