Anchorage Superior Court Judge Yvonne Lamoureux has ruled that Alaskans for Better Elections can have their ballot initiative.
But before they start collecting signatures on the ballot initiative petition, the State Department of Law is likely going to try to prevent those petition booklets from circulating while the State challenges the decision in the Supreme Court.
At issue is a ballot measure offered by a liberal Outside group that has used Jason Grenn, former House representative, as the measure’s local sponsor. Grenn’s attorney Scott Kendall argued the case before Judge Lamoureux last week, saying that the three parts of the ballot initiative all fall under the category of “election reform,” and therefore are not in violation of the “single subject rule.”
The judge agreed with Kendall in her ruling today.
Although the State will try to slow down the signature process while the matter works its way to the Supreme Court, Kendall’s argument is that nobody is hurt by collecting signatures. And if the Supreme Court sides with the State that the ballot measure is illegal, then the signature collecting stops.
The Department of Law issued a statement saying that a case known as Croft v. Parnell set up a new standard that should be used when evaluating whether an initiative bill violates the single-subject rule.
“That standard … takes into account that the purpose of the single-subject rule in the initiative context is to protect the voters’ ability to have their voices clearly heard on distinct proposals separately. Voters have no opportunity to deliberate or amend what they are voting on—it is all or nothing. We knew, because of the mixed legal precedent before Croft, that this issue would ultimately have to be decided by the Alaska Supreme Court. We are filing a request for stay pending appeal with the superior court to wait for distribution of booklets until the appeal is complete. We will also be filing our appeal in the next couple of days,” the department’s statement said.
But the judge said ballot measure laws need to be interpreted liberally and she wasn’t buying the argument that mixing campaign finance reform with actual voting reform in one ballot question is a problem.
The group is trying to establish prohibitions against independent expenditures in campaigns, which the group is calling “dark money.” But the Alaskans for Better Elections group is being backed by dark money that’s going primarily from a liberal group in Massachusetts. The ballot measure also would eliminate the ability of political parties to close their primary ballots to those registered with opposing parties. Finally, the candidates — from president on down to State House of Representatives, would be elected by a ranked system that sometimes yields a win for the second-place vote-getter.
Read the judge’s decision at this link: