Democrats sue state over primary process

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2016 10:31pm
  • News

JUNEAU (AP) — Alaska Democrats have sued the state after Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott denied the party’s request to allow candidates not affiliated with a political party to run in the Democratic primary.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, challenges as unconstitutional a state law that requires a candidate seeking a party’s nomination to be a registered voter of that party. It says the law interferes with the party’s constitutional right to freedom of association and wants a state court judge to block enforcement of it.

Alaska Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills said by email that the state typically defends its laws unless they are clearly unconstitutional. The department is reviewing the complaint and would have no further comment at this time, she wrote.

The party last month adopted a rule change to allow unaffiliated candidates to run in the Democratic primary and compete for the party’s endorsement. Party leaders said this was a way to be more inclusive. The party asked state election officials to implement the change for this year’s elections. As part of the request, state party chair Casey Steinau raised constitutional questions about the candidacy law and said the party believed it to be unenforceable.

In a written response to the party’s request last week, Mallott, a Democrat who oversees elections in Alaska, said it’s up to a court to decide whether a law is ultimately constitutional. Mallott said the state intends to follow the law as it stands.

Steinau said the party already allows voters registered as nonpartisan and undeclared to participate in the Democratic primary. Allowing unaffiliated candidates into the primary would be a natural progression, she said.

The party wants to put forth the strongest candidates that share its values, Steinau said.

In running for governor in 2014, Bill Walker changed his party affiliation from Republican to undeclared in joining forces with Mallott, who gave up his gubernatorial bid to be Walker’s running mate. The ticket was supported by the Democratic Party.

The state’s lone unaffiliated state lawmaker — Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan — caucuses with House Democrats.

More in News

Vehicles are unleaded at the Seward Harbor after being moved from Lowell Point on Sunday, May 22, 2022 in Seward, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management)
Lowell Point barge services move 110-plus cars to Seward

The services were covered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough and ended Monday

Anglers fish on the Kenai River on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Watershed Forum receives matching grant from Conoco

The Kenai Watershed Forum was given a grant from ConocoPhillips to fund… Continue reading

A beach on the eastern side of Cook Inlet is photographed at Clam Gulch, Alaska, in June 2019. The Alaska Board of Fisheries is implementing new shellfish regulations in Cook Inlet. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Fish and Game closes East Cook Inlet razor clam fisheries

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed the Cook Inlet… Continue reading

Anastasia Scollon (left) and Willow King (right) stand in The Goods + Sustainable Grocery and Where it’s At mindful food and drink on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sustainable shopping finds new home in Soldotna

The Collective used to operate out of Cook Inletkeeper’s Community Action Studio

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters Thursday about the state’s budget at the Alaska State Capitol. Dunleavy said lawmakers had sent a complete budget, and that there was no need for a special session.
Dunleavy: No need for special session

Governor calls budget “complete”

A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul

Rural lawmakers push back on Alaska Reads Act

Graduates wait to receive diplomas during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Connections honors more than 100 graduates

The home-school program held a ceremony Thursday in Soldotna

Most Read