Press Release

Federal Court Allows State to Continue Preparing for Upcoming Election

June 15, 2012

Anchorage, Alaska – Today a federal court denied a request to temporarily halt state election officials’ preparations for the upcoming primary elections using a revised electoral map. United States District Court Judge Sharon Gleason found that the plaintiffs, who filed a lawsuit seeking to bar the state from moving forward with its elections until the revised map is approved by the United States Department of Justice, had not shown that they would suffer irreparable harm if the state prepares for the election pending the map’s approval.

“We are pleased that Judge Gleason has allowed us to continue preparing for the election for the time being,” said Gail Fenumiai, the director of the Alaska Division of Elections. “In order to make sure that the election is held on time and in a way that allows everyone to exercise his or her right to vote, it’s important that we prepare now.”

The lawsuit argues that the state cannot use the revised electoral map to prepare for the election without having first obtained approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. Under federal law a handful of states, including Alaska, must obtain approval by the U.S. Department of Justice before making any changes to the state’s electoral process, including changes to electoral districts.

The Alaska Redistricting Board revised the electoral map to reflect changes in Alaska’s population shown by the 2010 census. In response to legal challenges, the Alaska Supreme Court ordered the redistricting board to revise the map again before the 2014 elections, but in order to avoid delaying the 2012 elections, the court ordered the existing revised map to serve as the interim plan. The redistricting board submitted the map for the Justice Department’s approval on May 25, 2012 and is awaiting a response.

“We are hopeful that the Department of Justice will decide whether to approve the revised electoral map soon enough for the state to hold its primary election on time,” said Fenumiai. The statewide primary election is scheduled for August 28, 2012.

Although Judge Gleason denied the plaintiffs’ initial request to put election preparations on hold, the plaintiffs have also asked a three-judge panel to consider their request. Judge Gleason indicated that the three-judge panel would likely meet in two weeks to consider the issue.

For more information on the case, please contact Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh at 269-5100.

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