Elections Chief: Parties Say What They Want in Voter Pamphlet

The Division of Elections voter pamphlet is arriving in mailboxes across the state. Way in the back is a page that caught some voters by surprise. It’s a negative ad against Sen. Mark Begich. The ad itself is standard fare in this election. But Mary Toutonghi  a retired speech pathologist from Soldotna, says it has no place the voter pamphlet, which she thinks of as a source of non-partisan information.

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“The idea of actually attacking somebody — Doing an attack ad in neutral pamphlet is just absolutely egregious,” she says.

The Republican Party of Alaska paid for the ad.  Alaska Elections Director Gail Fenumiai says state law lays out the rules for ads in the pamphlet.

“The parties are allowed to purchase two pages and there’s nothing in law that limits what they can include in their materials,” she says.

State law even sets the price:  Political parties pay $600 per page. She says she doesn’t know whether the pamphlet has ever carried negative ads before.

Most parties run a one-page ad staking out their platform. The Republican Party does that, but in recent years has also bought a second page, showing children running a lemonade stand or holding puppies. This year, it decided to devote the second page to the Senate race. State party chair Peter Goldberg says it went negative because it had to prepare the ad before the Primary election, before they knew Dan Sullivan would be the Republican nominee.

“(It) had to be kind of a generic ‘let’s attack Begich but we don’t know who to support,'” Goldberg says

The pamphlet cost the state about $200,000 to print. This year, the state paid an extra $45,000 for a supplemental because the original publication left out gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker. The Elections Division says, due to administrative oversight,  it failed to send him a follow-up letter with details about how to submit his statement.




Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her atlruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Lizhere.

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