Point of View: AFFR Plan is the antidote to peninsula gerrymandering

Alaskans for Fair Redistricting proposal would keep Fritz Creek in with Homer area.

Alaska is currently right in the middle of the once-a-decade legislative redistricting process to determine how communities are represented in the Alaska Legislature. The Kenai Peninsula has been one of the most controversial areas of the state during this redistricting cycle. In the Homer area, residents are upset by a proposal to separate the Fritz Creek area from the rest of Homer. In Nikiski, residents are concerned by proposals that put them in a different district from Kenai. And in Seward, residents are opposed to being in a district with Nikiski.

At Alaskans for Fair Redistricting, we built a diverse coalition of labor unions and organizations, Alaska Native organizations, public interest groups, and individuals from across the state to develop a map that provides fair representation for all of Alaska’s communities. Our coalition met weekly for months to identify the problems with the current legislative districts, identify challenges caused by changing populations, and create a proposed plan that ensures all of Alaska is fairly represented. The Kenai Peninsula is a perfect example of how our community-focused process has led to a map that gives a fair voice for all communities.

Perhaps the most controversial redistricting part of the board’s proposal is to split the communities along East End Road from the rest of the Homer area. Public testimony, both in-person at the Redistricting Board’s Homer Townhall on Oct. 13 and telephonically during the Redistricting Board’s statewide testimony hearing on Oct. 20, overwhelmingly opposed the concept of pairing Fritz Creek with Kodiak. Many concerned residents cited close socio-economic ties to Homer, close community ties through schools and business, and unilaterally rejected the idea of being paired with Kodiak.

When the board created this proposal, their staff advised this was justified because the Russian Old Believer villages along East End Road and Kodiak had shared historical ties to Russian colonialism. When the board first proposed this, Alaskans for Fair Redistricting testified against this idea. We explained that the Old Believer communities were founded long after the Russian colonial period and had no historical or cultural ties to Kodiak.

In Seward, residents unanimously testified that they did not feel connected to the northern peninsula communities with which they currently share a district — instead testifying that they had closer ties with the Homer area. Many residents from Nikiski have testified that they should be in the same district as Kenai rather than distant communities like Seward or Anchorage. The official written testimony record also supports this.

The plan put forward by Alaskans for Fair Redistricting is the only plan that meets all of these concerns and gives the distinct regions of the Kenai Peninsula their own districts. Not only do we keep the East End Road area with Homer, but our map is the only one that keeps the entire Kachemak Bay area whole by including Halibut Cove and Seldovia in this district as well. We also include Seward in this district. The communities along the Kenai Spur Highway form their own district, and Soldotna forms a district with the nearby communities along the south Sterling Highway. You can view the plan online at https://www.akfairredistricting.org/map.

Alaskans for Fair Redistricting’s plan is the best plan for Alaskans, and we encourage everyone to participate in the statewide testimony day on October 30th or submit written testimony in support of the AFFR plan to testimony@akredist.org to see the all regions of the Kenai Peninsula receive the full representation that they are entitled.

David Dunsmore and Robin O’Donoghue, staff to Alaskans for Fair Redistricting. Alaskans for Fair Redistricting is a fiscally sponsored project of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, a 501c3 organization.