Supporters of Alaska election system file suit seeking to block repeal initiative

election workers
Elections workers double-check the results of Alaska’s Aug. 16, 2022 primary election during a meeting of the state review board on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022 at the Alaska Division of Elections in Juneau. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

Three supporters of Alaska’s existing elections system have sued the Alaska Division of Elections, alleging that it improperly certified a ballot measure that seeks to repeal the state’s open primary and ranked choice general elections.

La Quen Naay Elizabeth Medicine Crow, Amber Lee and Kevin McGee are being represented by Cashion, Gilmore and Lindemuth, an Anchorage-based law firm hired by Alaskans for Better Elections, a political group supporting the voting system approved by voters in 2020 and implemented in 2022.

In a legal complaint filed Tuesday, attorneys Scott Kendall, Jahna Lindemuth and Samuel Gottstein ask a state judge to issue an injunction that would void the repeal ballot initiative and remove it from this fall’s statewide election ballot. 

The 37-page document, which amounts to the opening salvo in what may be a protracted argument, makes four claims:

  • petitioners left signature booklets unattended, violating a law that requires signatures be made in the presence of a person designated to circulate the booklets;
  • at least 15 petition books were notarized by someone who wasn’t an official notary at the time of their signature;
  • the division illegally allowed petitioners to fix problems with their booklets after submission;
  • and that some of the fixes took place after the deadline in state law to submit booklets to the Division of Elections.

Anticipating that a judge might view the errors as harmless and minor, Kendall referred to a 1986 case in which the Alaska Supreme Court disqualified a legislative candidate because he filed 10 minutes after the specified deadline.

“The legal principle is well established, both in Alaska and in other jurisdictions, that election law filing deadlines are to be strictly enforced,” justices wrote at the time.

The complaint asks that signature books affected by the four errors be disqualified from consideration, and the document says that if those signatures are disallowed, the petition lacks enough support to appear on this year’s ballot.

The state of Alaska has yet to file an official response to the complaint, which has been tentatively assigned to Anchorage Superior Court Judge Christina Rankin. 

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and X.

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