Alaska Republican Party Chairman calls for end to prison-based gerrymandering

Ending prison-based gerrymandering would be good for rural Native populations, says Republican Party Chairman.

by Peter Wagner, March 24, 2011

The Chairman of the Alaska Republican Party has called on the state to end prison-based gerrymandering:

Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, addressed the board via telephone, asking that the board assign Alaskan prisoners incarcerated within and outside of Alaska to their home addresses for the purpose of building new legislative districts.

Ruedrich noted in a letter to John Torgerson, board chairman, that the Census Bureau had made a decision to provide prison population data to states for the redrawing of 2011 legislative boundaries.

“This data will allow the board to work with census data that places each Alaskan prisoner in his or her home instead of their prison location for drawing new legislative districts,” Ruedrich said. “This should also increase the state population, since the out of state prison populations will be similarly assigned to their respective home addresses.”

Native policy board, others, will keep close eye on redistricting, by Margaret Bauman, Bristol Bay Times, March 16, 2011

The effort, before the Republican-dominated Redistricting Board, has so far been unsuccessful:

The board spent much of Wednesday afternoon discussing and setting the meeting schedule. But it also took up a request by Ruedrich to reallocate the prison population to their residence addresses. Now inmates are counted in the district in which they are incarcerated.

Ruedrich told the board there is a disproportionate number of Alaska Native prisoners in the system — 35 percent compared to a Native population generally of 15 percent. He suggested many of those people are from rural Alaska so counting them in their home towns and villages would help fill out lagging numbers in rural districts.

The board didn’t act on the request and said it would be too difficult in such a short time to get the residence addresses for thousands of inmates and try to work them into the appropriate district. The board’s attorney, Michael White, also wondered whether it was legal for the board to do it or if a change had to come through the Legislature.

Alaska redistricting board gets to work, by Patti Epler, Alaska Dispatch March 16, 2011

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