Justices rule against Galvin, allow Alaska to proceed with redesigned ballot

Alyse Galvin, running for Alaska’s House seat, is asking for the judge to reprint the ballots. She says labeling her as a Democrat on the general election ballot is misleading, even though she won the Democratic Primary (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

UPDATE: The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the lower court. “We are not convinced that the petitioner has established that the Superior Court has abused its discretion in this case,” Chief Justice Joel Bolger said.

UPDATE: The Alaska Supreme Court heard candidate Alyse Galvin’s appeal Friday afternoon. Chief Justice Joel Bolger asked the attorneys to keep their phones close. He said they might be called back to the court or the justices may issue a decision in writing.

Superior Court Judge Jennifer Henderson has decided not to block the state from mailing ballots to overseas voters.

Her ruling Friday reverses the direction the judge took on Thursday, when she temporarily stopped the state from printing more ballots that leave off a letter next to candidates’ names showing which party, if any, they affiliate with.

RELATED: LISTEN: U.S. House candidate Alyse Galvin answers listener questions

The case was brought by congressional candidate Alyse Galvin and goes immediately to the Alaska Supreme Court for appeal.

Galvin won the Democratic primary for U.S. House last month. The November ballot accurately describes her as the Democratic nominee. But the Alaska Division of Election revealed this week that it redesigned the ballot, leaving off the letters next to each candidate’s name, including the “N” Galvin says should be next to her name, indicating that she’s non-partisan. 

Her attorney argued that leaving the letter off makes the false impression that she is a Democrat. 

RELATED: LISTEN: U.S. House incumbent Don Young answers listener questions

“When I look at the ballot today, and it’s in front of me now, it says ‘Don Young, Republican nominee. Alyse Galvin, Democratic nominee,’” attorney Kevin Feldis told the court. “That is Republican versus Democrat. That’s what I see. That’s what the public will see. What they’re missing is … the fact that she’s non-partisan.”

He argued the state should correct the ballot, or print new ones, before continuing its election preparations. The next step is to mail ballots to military members and other residents overseas.

The state’s attorney, Margaret Paton-Walsh, argued that Galvin affiliated with the party when she chose to run in the Democratic primary. Galvin, like all candidates, can make her views and affiliations known to voters by campaigning, Paton-Walsh said. 

“The statement on the ballot is completely accurate, and it is not misleading,” the state attorney said. “The fact that it doesn’t reveal every political position or view in the nuanced way that Miss Galvin has — that’s just the reality of ballots.”

Judge Henderson said Galvin raised serious questions, but she’s not convinced that Galvin has a constitutional right to have the signifier next to her name. 

Henderson said some people will see it as flip-flop that she granted Galvin’s request for a restraining order Thursday, only to rule against her the next day. Henderson, though, said the purpose of the first order was to temporarily freeze the state’s action on ballots, to give her time to take in more facts. 

Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said the printer the state uses didn’t have enough paper on hand to reprint all the ballots, and that it would take until Sept. 29 to get more. 

The state had argued that if it doesn’t get ballots in the mail right away to Alaskans overseas, some residents could lose the opportunity to vote.

The Alaska Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case at 1:15 p.m.

WATCH: State of Alaska, Division of Elections and Gail Fenumiai, Director v. Alyse Galvin

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

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