The Alaska Redistricting Board on Tuesday appealed its latest loss to the Alaska Supreme Court, arguing that Anchorage Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews got it wrong when he found the board committed yet another constitutional gerrymander favoring Republicans.
But one board member is protesting, arguing in an email sent to the court that the Alaska Redistricting Board’s conservative members and its legal counsel have gone rogue.
“I write as a duly appointed member of the Alaska Redistricting Board to advise that today’s filing is not a legitimate appeal,” wrote board member Nicole Borromeo, who was appointed to the board by former House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham). “The Board has not held a public hearing, executive session, or otherwise to discuss and vote on this pleading. In fact, the first time I had the opportunity to review it was after it was filed.”
Borromeo takes aim at the board’s Litigation Committee, which consists of only conservative board members John Binkley and Budd Simpson, and board counsel Matt Singer. She argues the committee was only intended to handle the day-to-day business of the original five lawsuits that challenged the original maps and was “not intended to usurp the board’s governance powers.”
“Unfortunately,” she wrote, “that is exactly what it is being used for, with the assistance of the Board’s counsel Matt Singer.”
Borromeo also points to the language of the motion to create the committee, which says “Any final decision that would directly impact our proclamation plan is reserved for decision by the full Board.”
On Monday, Judge Matthews ruled that the board’s conservative majority violated the equal protection rights of voters in South Anchorage when it paired them with an Eagle River district to create a new Senate district. Judge Matthews found that the board’s previous gerrymander aimed at boosting the representation of Eagle River and, thus, conservatives was unchanged in the new plan. The ruling also took board members Simpson and Binkley to task for statements and actions that expressed disdain and disregard to the Alaska Supreme Court’s authority.
He ordered the board to adopt an alternative that kept Eagle River together, South Anchorage together and East Anchorage, which was the subject of the original lawsuit, together. The board’s appeal argues, among many other things, that Judge Matthews doesn’t have the power to dictate to the board what it must do and that the court should have ignored the previous gerrymander when considering whether the latest maps were a new gerrymander.
What impact Borromeo’s email has on the process is unclear.
It was contained in a briefing filed by the Girdwood plaintiffs, who brought the challenge that led to the latest ruling. The Girdwood plaintiffs’ motion acknowledges the claims may be “important and potentially dispositive” but notifies the court that they plan to continue litigating as if it is legitimate because any hang up “may jeopardize the upcoming election cycle.”
Judge Matthews has ordered the board to adopt updated Senate pairings by May 23. The board has asked for a pause on that order while it appeals to the Alaska Supreme Court. The candidate filing deadline for this year’s elections is June 1.
Borromeo’s email also closes with a note that she’s exploring securing “independent conflict counsel,” which is a specific type of legal representation meant to address internal legal disputes in government entities or corporate boards.