Alaska Supreme Court says Democrats can include independents in primaries

Published: Apr. 4, 2018 at 12:36 PM AKDT
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The Alaska Supreme Court has upheld a lower court decision that allows the Alaska Democratic Party to include independent candidates on its primary ballots.

The decision was announced Wednesday.

The Court affirmed the ruling with a brief statement noting the urgency of the upcoming primary election and the June 1 deadline for candidacy declarations. The court said it will issue a more in-depth written opinion explaining the decision later.

Chief Justice Craig Stowers wrote a brief statement as "dubitante," a statement that indicates that the judge doubts a legal point but is unwilling to state that it was wrong. Stowers said he was not yet ready to draft a dissenting opinion until he saw the majority's analysis of the decision in written opinion. That also means he does not officially disagree with the order yet.

"Suffice it to say that I am presently unconvinced with the court's conclusion that the party affiliation statute is unconstitutional," Stowers wrote.


The Alaska Democratic Party had challenged a state law requiring that primary election candidates be registered members of the party whose nomination they're seeking. A superior court judge last fall ruled the state was restricting Democrats' attempt to appeal to independent voters by not allowing unaffiliated candidates to participate in Democratic primaries.

The Alaska Democratic Party's executive director, Jay Parmley, said he was pleased with the decision on two fronts -- both the speed with which the decision was made and the decision itself.

"We've long believed we have the constitutional facts on our side," he told Channel 2.

Parmley called the ruling good for the voters of Alaska, in having more candidates able to run on that primary ballot. He said for some Independents, being allowed to be included on the party's ballot would be the decisionmaking factor to run for office in the first place.

Alyse Galvin, an Independent candidate who's challenging Rep. Don Young, has expressed interest in the Democratic primary, Parmley said. Though he pointed out that the challenge isn't about one specific candidate or another.

When it comes to another big race up for election this year, and who will be featured on which primary ballot, Parmley said he hasn't heard from Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who gained the party's support in 2014 after dropping his Republican voter registration and teaming up with then-Democrat Byron Mallott.

"It's not our decision, it's his," Parmley said.

The deadline to register to run for office is June 1, less than two months away.