Green Party files lawsuit to stay on ballot

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) The Green Party of Alaska filed a lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court on Tuesday challenging the state law that decides which political parties are given access to statewide ballots.

State election officials stripped the Green Party of its official status which guarantees a place on the ballot in statewide elections in February after its gubernatorial candidate failed to draw 3 percent of the vote in the 2002 election.

Green Party officials have asked for an injunction to retain their ballot access status and alleged in court filings the state law violates their constitutional right of equal protection.

''It's discrimination in the way political parties are being treated,'' said Jim Sykes, co-chair of the Green Party of Alaska. ''We have been proving ourselves in every general election since 1990.''

The Green Party of Alaska was the first Green Party in the U.S. to obtain state-recognized ballot status in 1990 and has fielded candidates in every statewide election since, the party said.

But in the 2002 race, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Diane Benson received only 1.26 percent of the vote, prompting the state to decertify the party.

Benson, a native activist from Chugiak, replaced Desa Jacobsson after the Aug. 27 primary.

Under state law, a political organization must garner at least 3 percent of the last gubernatorial vote or have an equal amount of registered voters to maintain a place on Alaska ballots.

Green Party officials argue state law requiring political parties to demonstrate a certain level of support among voters should not be confined to the governor's race.

Sykes ran for U.S. Senate in 2002 against incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Stevens and garnered 7.24 percent of the vote, the party said. Russell DeForest also garnered 6.34 percent of the vote in his race against Republican Rep. Don Young, the party said.

''Recognized political parties are expected to demonstrate a 'modicum of support.' The most recent election and the long history of Green Party candidates at the ballot box more than demonstrates statewide political party activity to meet this test,'' Sykes said.

A candidate not affiliated with the three recognized political parties must gather a requisite number of signatures on a nominating petition to be listed on a ballot.

Alaska had six officially recognized political parties up until the 2002 general election. State election officials also dropped the Republican Moderate Party and the Libertarian Party from its list of recognized parties.

The Alaskan Independence Party gubernatorial candidate received less than 1 percent of the vote, but has enough registered voters to retain its status, said state Division of Elections spokeswoman Virginia Breeze.

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