Final three: Division of Elections rules Tara Sweeney cannot replace Al Gross on final four ballot in August

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In the August special general election to decide a U.S. House representative for Alaska, there will be only three names for the ranked-choice ballot. Not four.

A decision today by the Division of Elections thwarts the plans of some who wish to have fifth-place candidate Tara Sweeney move into the fourth place position on the August special general election ballot for Congress, now that one of the four top finishers has dropped out.

The sudden exit of third-place Al Gross, who had earned 18,936, or 12.65% of the vote during the special primary election to replace Congressman Don Young, created a dilemma: Did Ballot Measure 2, which muddied the election laws in Alaska in 2020, intend for a fifth-place finisher to be able to move up if one of the top four quit or died after a special primary election? Does that slot on the ranked-choice ballot remain blank? Or does it contain the quitter’s name? According to the Division of Elections, it remains blank. Three continue on.

Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said, in an explanation, that Gross’ name will be removed, as requested, from the ballot for the special general election. But “Because this withdrawal occurred less than 64 days before the election, Alaska law does not permit the fifth-place candidate to advance.”

She cited Alaska Statute 15.25.100(c), which says, “if a candidate nominated at the primary election … withdraws … after the primary election and 64 or more days before the general election, the vacancy shall be filled by the director by replacing the withdrawn candidate with the candidate who received the fifth most votes in the primary election.”

Fenumiai said that any party wishing to challenge her ruling should do so quickly because the Division requires a final determination from the courts by noon on June 28 in order to print the ballots in time to meet state and federal deadlines and keep the special general election on schedule to be combined with the regular Aug. 16 primary.

49 COMMENTS

    • The campaign should focus on how to vote. No one has to vote for more than one person. If the ruling stands and GOP voters cast ballots only for Palin and Nick B and no one else they can’t lose.
      Ranked choice voting is very complex and can easily lead to unforeseen results. The best way is to vote only for candidates that are acceptable to you.
      Fortunately Gross is too clever by a half.

  1. I have complete faith in the Alaska Courts to find a way around that silly law and put Sweeney on the ballot.

    • Agreed. What we have here is maelstrom that only the Supremes can improve upon, and seem quite likely to… The money spigot just cranked open another full turn, and its a safe bet that Scott Kendall is wetting himself about how well this will turn out for himself.

    • It wouldn’t surprise me if the court just names Peltola as the winner…..prior to the election.

    • Likely they will. But will play silly games and delay the election until the dead of winter while waiting for their instructions from their DNC masters.

    • @Art Chance,
      Art, if the Alaska Supreme Court keeps intermeddling with the Elections Division decisions, it’s going to look painfully obvious that the Court has an agenda quite different than the regulatory agency of the state. Why even have an Elections Division if they can’t bootstrap themselves? This isn’t a constitutional question before the court. It’s a question regarding the rules of the road, and the Elections Division is the authority for that.

  2. Something stinks with this sudden pull-out. I am not sure how this works per-se, but I’m sure this is a calculated “withdrawal” move by the DemoRats. If all of the Dems now just vote for Peltola will she win if the Republicans all start splitting their votes for Palin and Begich?

    • Except to my understanding there is no splitting per se.
      I can not see that Mrs. Peltola will get 50% of the votes on the first go around, as this system requires a majority not only a plurality.
      So a potential scenario in my mind:
      Mrs. Peltola gets the democrat vote, but then what for democrats? Rank Mrs. Palin or Mr. Begich?
      Conservatives can potentially pick Mrs. Palin or Mr. Begich #1 and #2 or vice versa with their #3 choice left blank (meaning no vote for the democrat)

    • Yes, yes. You don’t know squat but by god you know the democrats are responsible for something, for whatever.

      • Yes I know that the DemoRats will do just about anything to win. Look how hard the Anchorage assembly is working to undermine everything that Bronson does.

        • “will do just about anything to win”. That claim fits Trump best don’t you think? The Big Lie with zero supporting evidence; created slates of fake electors; callously and carelessly put Pence’s life in danger. He will do anything to win

  3. So the only question left is who will be the second choice of Peltola voters?
    Perhaps also how the Sweeney voters will split?

    • Peltola voters will just vote for her, no second choice unless a write in. The voters who chose Sweeney, Coghill, Revak, etc., will most likely vote for Begich. The voters who choose Begich or Palin as their first choice should use their second choice vote for the other Republican. One way or another, unless Peltola miraculously gets 50% in the first round, we will likely have a Republican replacement for Don Young.

  4. So Al threw himself on a grenade for the Walker machine and all he did was take himself out?

    Priceless.

  5. The Left has certainly mucked up our elections for us! We are now ashamed of our state elections processes and procedures, as we should be. It’s not the fault of the Division of Elections. It’s the Democrats being tired of their lackluster elections results and being fearful of the primary process. But the Democrats could not have succeeded in this muck-up without court system complicity. Here in Juneau the local elections have gone off the tracks; we wait two weeks when we always had reliable results within an hour or two of the polls closing. If any other part of Alaska will take these liberals, the big union machine, and the perverts you can have the capital. Good riddance.

    • With modern technology, why have a fixed capital? Have legislators stay in their home districts and meet via VTC. Millions of remote workers do it every day and it works. Plus, think of the cost savings. I suppose lobbyists wouldn’t have one central location where they could wine/dine members of the legislature efficiently, so I guess that would be sad.

      • Or imagine a mobile legislature. Leave the capitol in Juneau, but have the legislators meet for the session in various parts of the state. There are LIO offices everywhere and most schools have a gym large enough to accommodate lawmakers and voter audiences. This way the legislators would be where the people are and more communities would reap the benefit of the commercial windfall that the legislators bring to Juneau. It could be a rotating system of locations, or just for fun a lottery system, where all communities wishing to participate can throw their name in the hat and then at the end of the session, the governor pulls a new location for the next session, until all are gone and it starts a new, with the last location to be ineligible to participate…..

  6. So, Gail does have the ability to read simple words, written in black and white, and interpret them to mean what they actually say. That’s refreshing. Maybe this is a turning point for the Division of Elections.

  7. The 4-D chess theory would be that Gross lets Peltola lose a race overwhelmingly favoring a Republican, then he comes back to run for the seat in the general.

    He spends a few months fundraising nationally off the Republican. Hell, he may have even gotten assurance from the Democrats to support him later if he pulls out now and they lose this round. He gets to look like the noble good guy for making space for Peltola, publicly laments the idea that a nonpartisan can’t run (even though RCV was sold as enabling exactly that, and he achieved a solid #3 position in the primary).

    That would be some smart horse trading. But if I’ve learned anything about politicians it’s that they’re usually not smart enough to play 4-D chess unless their name is Clinton. It could very well be that he dropped to avoid some skeleton in the closet coming out, threatened by a Dem operative. That scenario has plenty of precedent.

  8. Seems like the 64 days should have been built into the schedule in the first place. I’d rather Sweeney not be on the ballot, but this seems like a technicality that was anticipated in the rules. My guess is that the court will put her on the ballot. We’ll have to see what plays out. Either way Sarah or Nick will win this one.

    • Actually I am pretty certain that this rule is known to the candidates and whoever put pressure on Al Gross, simply did not do the math correctly. (or thinks that they are above the rules)
      I think what threw this was the mail-in election process. If it had been a regular in- person election on June 11, we would have had definitive results by election night or the next day. By my math there are 67 days (counting election day)to the general election. Yet with this mail-in election, results trickled in and the 64 day deadline passed before certain candidates could figure out if they were in or definitely out.

  9. Gross abruptly exits for no clear reason and endorses Sweeney. Sweeney’s team then tries to change the law to suit their needs. This doesn’t seem right but it confirms what we already know about Sweeney. She’s on the left and will do whatever she feels she must in order to win. Even if it involves kicking people out of races and changing the law. Not someone we need in congress.

  10. With this development – and perhaps foolishly thinking that the Alaska judges will not try to put their thumb on the electoral scales – the three-candidate scenario may make male voters relevant again. Experience over the last decade has shown that women voters support women candidates, some, perhaps without reference to issues. If Nick Begich is the only male candidate, votes by men may become a significant factor.

  11. Damn if only she could have defined what a woman is. She had a lot of steam in her political engine, all for not.
    So now it’s Sara who ruined oil and gas with ACES and supported Walker or Nick who is a Begich and supported Berkowitz…….no good will come of this.

    • We’ve all made mistakes, Nick made his with his Berkowitz support. He admits he was young and foolish, but has grown wiser since.

  12. Who wrote AS 15.25.100(c)? Was that part of BM2? I don’t remember that detail in the voter guide or any other publication, but I would have assumed that any action by the legislature on that would have made it into the media. Yeah, all of the above – the courts will rule for Tara Sweeney and the Gross will try to run for the general in November.

  13. The only way Peltola wins is if those on the right only rank one candidate. If those on the right rank a number 1 and number 2 choice that isn’t Peltola then we get a Begich or Palin. I’m not sure voting for a Begich and supporting a political royal family is something I can do, but I will be hard pressed to rank Palin as my first choice and Peltola would be my last choice.

    Can I write in “none of them” as my first choice?

    • A few days ago, I said it was Palin’s election to lose based on the numbers from the Primary and gaming out Round 1 & 2. Nick had quite the deficit to fill to edge out Sarah.

      Now, in a Round 1 three-way race, Nick probably has better odds than before and a path to victory IF he can get most of Sweeney’s voters and some of the Gross voters (I think I’ve convinced a couple of these to go with Nick so far). If much more than half of Sweeney’s votes go to Peltola or a write-in, and assuming the Gross voters will mostly go to Peltola, it’s still probably Sarah’s race.

      I suppose the question is now whether Sweeney decides to mount a write-in campaign or do an earnest endorsement for Nick or Peltola. For some reason I doubt she’d endorse Palin. Peltola is a lost cause – this election is almost certainly going to a Republican candidate unless the voters are idiots and bullet vote. In that sense, unless Tara wants Sarah in office, she better start volunteering down at Nick HQ pronto.

      I would also bet that most of Peltola voters will mark Nick as their second choice, but in Round 1 three-way, it would be too late for Nick. A smart (D)(U)(I) voter that doesn’t want Sarah in office should be making sure Nick gets past round 1 by voting for him as their first choice (assuming all Nick’s voters would break for Sarah in Round 2).

      Let’s see how these predictions age…

  14. This is another reason why ranked choice voting should be outlawed. It is a system of unreliability, uncertainty, subject to late-minute changes, and invites confusion and chaos. The only people it benefits are those candidates who cannot win in closed primaries and those who cannot win straight-up matches against others using the basic win/loss standard for outcomes. This system was designed to defeat the majority voters. Unconstitutional on its face because it requires an outcome that can be affected by a minority voice, not a majority, through a system of elimination or advancement from non-advancing candidates. No other state in the US uses it as the principle state-wide system. And, it forces voters to choose candidates who they would not otherwise choose. A big step backwards to fair and reasonable democratic elections.

  15. As soon as I saw Peltola join the race, I knew what was up. Gross dropping out mirrored Bernie Sanders dropping out. This is all planned. Peltola will win, not by merit or popularity, but by manipulation.

  16. There is nobody who is second, third, or fourth in my mind, so I am only going to vote for one person, NB3.
    I refuse to help anyone else win in this diabolical Soros created mess, so will do my little part, by voting for Nick only.

    • I think that is a bad move. If Nick loses, is there no one else you would prefer? I do not like Sarah but I would take her over Peltola.

  17. I have zero faith in this ranked choice voting scheme, hell, I have zero faith in our elections period, locally and nationally.

  18. Imagine that! Forty one comments, forty one different scenarios predicted. Eleven days post election, and we have a disastrous mess in which anything can happen! There is no such thing as a free and fair election the US anymore. But we in AK may have the most ridiculous example of obfuscation in the land! Embarrassing!

  19. Do the math. If everyone voted for their primary choice in the general (and supporters of the other 44 candidates split with the same percentages), first Perlota would be eliminated, then Gross would be eliminated, then Begich would be eliminated, then Palin would win.

    Now, with no Gross to split the lefts vote Begich will be eliminated first. This gives Perlota the chance to go up against Palin. If enough people who would normally vote for the Republican don’t want to vote for a quitter, then Perlota will win. It’s probably not going to work, but it’s the best chance to get a non-Palin winner, so Gross is rolling the dice and hoping the non-Republicans are lucky.

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