Libertarian Party candidate’s affiliation now listed on sample Alaska ballot as lawsuit is filed

Alaska's general election ballot is being challenged again in court.
Alaska's general election ballot is being challenged again in court.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 7:56 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives is suing the Alaska Division of Elections for omitting his Libertarian Party affiliation on the general election ballot. But the change may already have been made.

Scott Kohlhaas filed the lawsuit on Friday morning because he was listed last week on the Nov. 3 election ballot only as a “petition nominee.” He is asking that ballots for House District 16 be reprinted.

As of Friday evening, the sample general election ballot shows Kohlhaas as the Libertarian nominee. A week ago it didn’t.

Sample general election ballot for House District 16 from last week that lists Scott Kohlhaas...
Sample general election ballot for House District 16 from last week that lists Scott Kohlhaas as a "petition nominee."(KTUU)

Kohlhaas said after filing the lawsuit in the morning, Gail Fenumiai, the director of the Division of Elections, emailed him around noon, asking to speak.

“Scott, I tried to reach you by phone this morning and would appreciate if you would give me a call as soon as you can,” the email from Fenumiai reads.

Kohlhaas said Fenumiai told him by phone that the Alaska Division of Elections had decided to change the general election ballot for House District 16 on Thursday evening, a claim he found dubious as he was contacted after the lawsuit had been filed.

Kohlhaas also said the Division of Elections had agreed to reprint the ballot for House District 16.

The first set of absentee ballots were mailed to Alaskan overseas and military voters last Friday. Kohlhaas' lawsuit accepts that those ballots won’t show his Libertarian affiliation but he wants that affiliation listed on the rest of the ballots sent out to Alaskans.

Gavin Christiansen, a candidate for Senate District F, is now also listed as the Libertarian nominee on the sample general election ballot. Christiansen is not part of Kohlhaas' lawsuit and he had to drop out of the race for health reasons.

His name will still appear on the ballot.

“For Scott A. Kohlhaas, who wants the voters to know what he really believes, he is harmed because the Division of Elections has taken away his political party designation,” court documents state.

Kenneth Jacobus, the attorney appearing on behalf of Kohlhaas, said the statute clearly states that a candidate’s political group affiliation must be listed on the ballot.

The lawsuit follows a separate challenge to the appearance of the general election ballot that went to the Alaska Supreme Court last week.

Alyse Galvin, an independent running as the Democratic nominee for Alaska’s sole U.S. House of Representatives seat, sued the Divisions of Elections for not listing her nonpartisan status on the ballot. Galvin lost that case.

Jacobus argues his client’s case and Galvin’s case are different. There is also a different statute at play, he said.

Kohlhaas said he still intends for the lawsuit to go ahead to get the Division of Elections on the record, explaining that it would reprint House District 16 ballots.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, the Democratic incumbent for House District 16, said she supported Kohlhaas having his party affiliation on the ballot but didn’t understand why the same rule wouldn’t apply for Galvin. “It’s just inconsistent,” she said.

The Division of Elections and the Department of Law were emailed for comment after 6 p.m. and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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