DEMOCRATS MAY EXPAND THEIR BALLOT, BUT REPUBLICANS MAY NOT RESTRICT THEIRS
Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke has determined the Alaska Republican Party will be forced to accept three turncoat Republicans on its primary ballot.
The party has no right, she said, to remove candidates who have been voted by the party as ineligible to run as Republicans.
Bahnke was responding to a letter from Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock, who told the Division earlier this month that the party has specific rules and plans to enforce them.
Those party rules make Reps. Gabrielle LeDoux, Paul Seaton, and Louise Stutes ineligible to run in the Republican primary. These three were elected as Republicans and a majority of Republicans were elected that year, but these three quickly formed a caucus with the Democrats and seized power, leaving their fellow Republicans in the minority.
[Read Tuckerman Babcock’s letter to the Division of Elections here: Chair to DOE Apri 6]
Bahnke’s response to Babcock says the Division disputes the party’s interpretation of the ruling by the Supreme Court and, without legal authority forcing her to do so, she will not prohibit a candidate from running on a party’s ballot, regardless of party rules.
The Alaska Republican Party is preparing a recommendation to the party’s executive committee to either file for an injunction or to file a lawsuit against the Division of Elections.
“Since a party has a right to limit who can vote in a primary to select a candidate, as determined by the Supreme Court, the party also has a right to limit who the candidates can be,” he said. “It’s far more damaging to a party to have Democrats running to be nominated than it is to limit who can vote on a primary ballot.
But Bahnke said she has no authority to honor the party’s rules. The recent Supreme Court ruling only referred to the broadening of the Democrats’ ability to allow nonpartisans, independents and undeclared candidates to run under the Democrats’ banner, but was silent on whether that applies to restricting candidates from running under a party’s banner. Her interpretation is that there is no correlation.
Bahnke wrote: “You assert that because of that case, the Division of Elections (”Division”) must implement the Republican Party leadership’s desire to exclude from the primary election any party member who you conclude has ‘engaged in actions detrimental to . . . Republican values and goals.’ The Division of Elections does not agree with your analysis. In AS 15.25.030, the Alaska legislature adopted broad, inclusive primary candidate eligibility requirements. The Alaska Democratic Party case instructs that parties must be allowed to further broaden the choice of candidates for voters. But nothing in the superior court’s analysis or the Supreme Court’s order creates a new right for party leadership to eliminate candidate choices for the party’s voters. And history demonstrates strong public policy reasons to legislate against that.”
“Absent controlling authority to the contrary, the Division of Elections must follow existing law. The Division will allow any eligible Republican who files a timely declaration of candidacy to appear on the ballot, and the voters will decide.” – Josie Bahnke.
Bahnke did not buttress her decision with an opinion from the Department of Law, but simply said that the Division disagrees with the Alaska Republican Party and will use its own judgment.
[Read Bahnke’s ruling here: 180418 ARP response re candidate eligibility rule]
“What is the interest of the state in enforcing this to happen? She has not articulated any State interest in forcing parties to accept turncoats,” Babcock said, as he prepared to take the matter to court.