A "Herculean" Task: The Voting Rights Act and Redistricting in Alaska

Chloe E. Cotton, Claremont McKenna College


Redistricting is a challenging task in any state, and Alaska, with its vast geography, sparse population, and uneven population concentrations, presents a unique set of difficulties. The state requires that its legislative districts be contiguous, compact, and relatively socio-economically integrated. Further complicating the process are the requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Alaska is one of nine states required to submit its redistricting plans to the federal government for preclearance, as a result of a history of discrimination against a minority population. Under the VRA, Alaska must avoid retrogression of the voting power of its Alaska Native population. Particularly over the last couple of decades, the requirements of the VRA have come into conflict with the requirements of the state constitution. In the following paper, I will explore the impact of the VRA on redistricting in Alaska, with a particular focus on the redistricting cycle following the 2010 Census.