State to appeal ruling on independent candidates in primary elections

Published: Nov. 3, 2017 at 2:33 PM AKDT
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On Friday, the state of Alaska is appealing the court’s decision on a lawsuit regarding unaffiliated candidates to run in a specific party’s primary election.

The court ruled last month that candidates do not have to be a registered member of a party to appear on that party’s primary ballot. The suit was originally brought by the Alaska Democratic Party.

A superior court judge found that the requirement violates the party’s first amendment right to associate with candidates who are not Democrats.

The case will now be taken to the Alaska Supreme Court.

In a press release, Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth says, “We don’t agree with the superior court that the party membership requirement in state statute places an unconstitutional burden on political parties."

She continued to say that there were "significant" constitutional questions that should be decided by the Alaska Supreme Court.

The state says it will ask the Supreme Court to expedite the case, so a clear decision will be made before the deadline for candidates to file declarations of candidacy for next year’s elections.

Jay Parmley, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party, says he was surprised by the filing.

“We feel very strongly that the facts are on our side and that the decision that was issued in the superior court was well-written, very thorough and expansive,” Parmley said.

While the original lawsuit came about when Independent U.S. Senate candidate Margaret Stock wanted to run on the Democratic primary ticket, Parmley says the issue goes beyond one race.

“It's really not about a particular race," he said. "We feel it's good for us and good for the state up and down the ballot."