Locals want town districted with other coastal communities

New maps will be drawn by Nov. 10

Detail of a map showing one possible districting arrangement for Alaska. (Nov. 1, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Four members of the Alaska Redistricting Board visited Cordova Monday, Nov. 1 in the last of more than 20 hearings held across the state. Board members presented the public with a gallery of maps showing proposed schemes for redrawing the state’s 40 house districts and 20 senate districts to reflect census data.

About eight members of the general public attended the meeting, which was held at the Cordova Center. This attendance level was typical for a town of Cordova’s size, although in Homer, where some proposed redistricting plans are especially controversial, attendance was higher, said Peter Torkelson, executive director for the board.

The majority of Cordovans who gave testimony at the meeting supported grouping Cordova with other coastal communities, board member Bethany Marcum said. In her testimony, Native Village of Eyak Vice Chairman Sylvia Lange criticized proposed maps which, she said, would group Cordova with inland towns with which Cordova had little in common.

In drawing new districts, the board is tasked with taking into account population size, geographical compactness, geographical contiguity and socioeconomic integration. Meetings have served not only as an opportunity not just to gauge public opinion, but also to help the public learn about the redistricting process, Marcum said.

The board began work on a revised map Wednesday, Nov. 3. The map is required to be completed by Wednesday, Nov. 10. The public may challenge the revised map in the courts for the 30 days following its completion.

Cordova’s placement will be influenced by data from the 2020 U.S. Census. Less than half of Cordova households participated in the census, causing the town to lag behind state and national response rates, according to Census Bureau estimates. Local census efforts were marred by miscommunications that left both respondents and census workers uncertain who had participated and who hadn’t. The COVID-19 pandemic also complicated census efforts, city officials said.