Lawsuit challenges new Anchorage runoff election law

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) An Anchorage attorney has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a change in local election law.

Ken Jacobus said the federal government never reviewed Proposition 2, a ballot measure lowering the proportion of the vote a mayoral candidate needs to win. The ballot measure lowers the proportion from 50 percent of the vote to 45 percent.

In the April 1 municipal election, mayoral candidate Mark Begich won 44.8 percent of the vote. The final tally of 4,505 uncounted absentee and questioned ballots could give him the more-than-45 percent of the vote needed to win. Mayor George Wuerch, his opponent, won 37.5 percent. If Begich does not win, the two would face each other in a May 6 runoff.

If Jacobus' lawsuit succeeds, it could force a runoff.

Jacobus said he filed the suit Thursday because I support majority rule.''

No hearing date has been set.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, certain states must get Department of Justice review of voting changes to ensure minorities are not disenfranchised. Anchorage is an area that qualifies because of the large number of Alaska Native residents, said attorney John Rubini, who litigated voting and election issues in the 1990s.

Municipal Attorney Bill Green said Thursday that the city never got a federal review because we were not asked,'' the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Rubini said that the court will likely look to whether Proposition 2 adversely affects minority voters.

That's the money question will it invalidate an election that's already taken place absent any showing of any harm to the disenfranchised group?'' Rubini said.

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