Anchorage man challenges two-ballot primary election

Posted: Thursday, July 06, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Anchorage activist has filed for a temporary injunction to block the state from issuing two ballots for the August primary election.

Michael O'Callaghan filed for a temporary injunction Wednesday against the state's plan to restrict the August primary in accordance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week.

The high court said primary voting must be restricted if political parties request it. Forcing political parties into open primaries violates their constitutional right of free association, wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the 7-2 decision.

The ruling was directed at California but affects Alaska and Washington state, which use the same blanket primary system.

In Alaska, the Republican Party has asked that voting for its candidates be restricted to registered Republicans and those voters who are not registered in any other party, a total of about 75 percent of Alaska's registered voters.

Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer signed an emergency regulation last week creating a two-ballot system for this year only - a Republican ballot and an all-other ballot.

The state ran this type of primary in 1992 and 1994 as part of an agreement with the Republican Party.

O'Callaghan sued and won a ruling from the Alaska Supreme Court that the state had to follow the blanket primary law that was still on the books.

The state went back to an open primary in 1996.

O'Callaghan's new complaint says Ulmer's emergency regulation violates his rights as a voter and puts in place a system already ruled illegal by the Alaska Supreme Court.

''The Primary ballot ought to be constructed in a manner which preserves Alaskans' right to vote for candidates of their choice,'' O'Callaghan argued in the complaint filed in Anchorage Superior Court.

Any legal defect in Alaska's existing open primary system can be corrected by simply removing all party affiliation from the August ballot, he said. Louisiana uses such a system.

When the Legislature convenes in January, it can write a new law, he said.

Randy Ruedrick, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the party would fight if necessary to preserve the two-ballot system for this year.

Any action affecting the August primary is up against a tough deadline. As of Friday, ballots were scheduled to go to the printer today. But O'Callaghan is unfazed.

''I don't buy the fact that the primary has to be held on that day,'' he said Wednesday. ''I don't buy that the ballot has to be printed so far ahead of time.''

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