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Measure to abolish ranked choice voting system in Alaska achieves first partial victory in court

A judge has ruled that Alaska election officials did not violate state law or regulations when they allowed sponsors of a measure to abolish Alaska's ranked-choice voting system to correct errors in petition brochures after they were submitted.

JUNEAU, Alaska – Supporters of a measure to abolish Alaska's ranked-choice voting system scored a partial victory in court when a judge ruled that state election officials violated no law or regulation by allowing sponsors to correct errors in signature booklets already submitted.

The ruling by Supreme Court Judge Christina Rankin on Friday addresses only part of the case brought by three voters seeking to keep the repeal measure off the November ballot. The suit alleges that the Board of Elections did not have the authority to allow sponsors to correct errors in a submitted ballot measure on an ongoing or piecemeal basis. But Rankin ruled that the board acted within its authority and met deadlines.

The plaintiffs also challenge the methods used by the sponsors to collect signatures. These allegations are still pending. Court dates have already been scheduled and will begin next month.

Plaintiffs' attorney, Scott Kendall, said via text message that either party could appeal once there was a final ruling on all parts of the case.

“While we are disappointed with this verdict, we will consider our options as the remainder of the case proceeds,” he said.

Kendall was one of the authors of the successful 2020 election law that replaced party primaries with open primaries and introduced ranked-choice voting for the general election. The new system was used for the first time in 2022 and is scheduled to be used again this year.

The Justice Department “is pleased that the court has upheld the Elections Division's interpretation that makes it easier for voters to propose initiatives,” department spokesman Sam Curtis said by email. The department is representing the department.

For those who want to put an initiative to the vote, there is a signature collection process. Those who sign the petition must prove that they meet certain requirements and have this affidavit notarized or certified.

In a court document, prosecutors said the department found problems with more than 60 petition booklets – most involving a person whose notary license had expired – and began notifying the initiative's sponsors of the problems on Jan. 18, six days after the petition was filed. Sponsors returned 62 corrected booklets by March 1, before the department completed the signature count on March 8, Assistant Attorneys General Thomas Flynn and Lael Harrison wrote in a document last month.

Prosecutors and plaintiffs have said that if the 62 pamphlets were discarded, the bill would not receive enough signatures to make it onto the ballot.

Anna Harden

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