Ulmer still pondering primary change

Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer plans to announce the fate of Alaska's blanket primary system on Thursday.

On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down California's blanket primary. In blanket primaries, candidates from all parties are listed on a single ballot and voters can chose freely regardless of their party affiliation. The top vote-getter in each party advances to the general election.

The Supreme Court ruled that system infringes on parties' constitutional right to free association by forcing them to associate with people who don't share their beliefs.

Ulmer says she disagrees with the decision, but must follow the ruling.

''It's a step backwards for democracy and reduces citizens' freedom to exercise their right to vote as they choose,'' said Ulmer, a Democrat.

What the state's Aug. 22 primary will look like is unclear because the blanket primary is outlined in state law.

Ulmer says she's reviewing the ruling with Attorney General Bruce Botelho, the Division of Elections, political parties and legislative leaders to discuss how to adapt Alaska's primary to comply with the decision.

The options include open primaries and closed primaries. In an open primary, voters can choose which party's primary to vote in. Closed primaries are limited to members of specific parties.

In 1992 and 1994, the Republican Party of Alaska held partially closed primaries that were open only to Republicans and voters who weren't registered with another party. Candidates from other parties appeared on a separate ballot open to all voters.

But the Alaska Supreme Court threw out that system because it violated the law calling for blanket primaries.

The RPA contends the U.S. Supreme Court's decision effectively reinstate that system.

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