The State Department of Law and the Better Elections group that is trying to get an initiative on the ballot came to an agreement today and the judge agreed, too: The State Division of Elections will not release petition booklets for Better Elections until the group’s case for its initiative is decided by the courts.
Better Elections, funded with Outside dollars, is trying to break up the party primary system in Alaska, and move the state to a “jungle primary,” with no parties, just the top two candidates moving to the General Election ballot. The group also is trying to move Alaska to a “ranked voting” system, so people indicate their first, second, and third choice. It also proposed prohibiting Outside dollars in elections.
The Department of Law has said the ballot initiative was illegal because it violated the single-subject rule. Lawyers for Better Elections took their case to a judge, and that’s when the Department of Law agreed to allow the petition booklets to be circulated anyway, while the merits of the “single-subject” ruling was winding its way through court.
That’s when Harry Young from Eagle River filed a lawsuit — to stop the petition booklets, because to issue them before the ballot question was certified is unconstitutional.
“Providing those printed petitions to the proponents before such certification is contrary to the detailed process mandated by Articles IX, Sections 2 and 3 of the Alaska Constitution and AS 15.45.090(a),” the lawyers for Young wrote.
In the agreement with Better Elections lawyer Scott Kendall, the State of Alaska has agreed to a more speedy briefing schedule on the original question of whether the ballot initiative is legal due to the single-subject rule.
Judge Yvonne Lamoureaux thanked the parties for unwinding the original stipulation, which she evidently also recognized as unconstitutional. The agreement helped her avoid having to issue an injunction on her previous decision.
The issuance of the petition booklets in advance of a ruling on the case would have set precedence for all future ballot initiative efforts as well as possibly for the recall efforts against Gov. Michael Dunleavy.