The main reason the United States Government counts its population every 10 years is to determine how many representatives to Congress each area gets. With a population around 600,000, the state of Alaska only gets one congressman. Every state gets two senators, no matter the population. The state of Alaska uses the census information in the same way: to determine the areas our state house and senate members will represent.
As Senate President, Gary Stevens is one of the people who get to appoint one of five representatives to the reapportionment board, which will decide the legislative boundaries for the next 10 years. His selection is Kodiak realtor Bob Brodie, who acknowledges the position is sensitive, the job important, and sometimes controversial.
— (Brodie 1 50 sec "You know, Gerrymandering … quite a learning experience.")
There’s circumstantial evidence that Alaska’s rural population is shrinking, with people leaving the villages for the urban areas of Anchorage and the Mat-Su boroughs. Once the census numbers have been compiled, we’ll know for sure. If that’s the case, Brodie says rural districts might have to increase in size to hold the same amount of people – about 15,000 per district:
— (Brodie 2 55 sec "I imagine those areas … Eagle River – Wasilla area.")
Reapportionment is sometimes a painful process. Past redistricting attempts have wound up in the courts, and at other times disparate areas of the state get stuck together. For example, before the last reapportionment, Kodiak’s Senate district included rural portions of the Southeast Panhandle, over 500 miles away. Thirty years ago, Kodiak and Bristol Bay shared a senator, and currently, Kodiak’s Stevens is also the senator for Homer and Seward on the Kenai Peninsula.
Brodie says he’ll try to be fair during the process, but can’t promise to make everyone happy:
— (Brodie 3 26 sec "And somebody told me that … and see what happens.")
Before 2000, the governor appointed all five members of the reapportionment board, but a ballot initiative in 1998 split those duties between the chief executive, the senate president, speaker of the house and chief justice of the State Supreme Court. So far former state Representative Jim Holm of Fairbanks, former state Senator John Torgerson of Soldotna and commercial pilot Albert Clough (CLOW) of Douglas have been appointed along with Brodie. An appointment by Supreme Court Chief Justice Walter Carpeneti is pending.
The first legislative elections held under the new boundaries will be in 2012. ###