Alaska Supreme Court ruling keeps Sweeney from the House vote

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Supreme Court on Saturday upheld a lower court ruling that keeps Republican Tara Sweeney from the vote for August’s special election in the US House race in Alaska.

In a brief written order, the Supreme Court said it upheld the decision of Judge William Morse of the Superior Court, who upheld a decision by Gail Fenumiai, director of the Elections Division, to put Sweeney fifth in the June 11 special primary. not slide forward. the special election after third place suddenly dropped out.

The court declined to comment on the reasoning, but said a full judgment will follow at a later date. Morse ruled in favor of the election division on Friday. The decision has been appealed by the plaintiffs in the case.

Forty-eight candidates ran in the special primary for the Alaska House seat, which had become vacant following the death in March of Republican Representative Don Young, who had held the seat for 49 years.

The special primary was the first election to be held under an Alaska voter-approved system that ends party and institutional primaries based on general election votes.

In this case, the top four votes to go into the special election were Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich, independent Al Gross and Democrat Mary Peltola. That changed when Gross pulled out abruptly on Tuesday.

Fenumiai had said that because Gross withdrew less than 64 days before the scheduled August 16 special election, state law would not allow the division to place the fifth-place candidate in his place.

On Thursday, three voters filed a lawsuit to get Sweeney to vote, alleging election officials misinterpreted the law and the timeline to pull out did not apply to special elections.

Messages to three attorneys representing the plaintiffs were not immediately returned to The Associated Press on Saturday.

“The law was clear and I’m glad the courts confirmed it. Now is the time to take our campaign to the voters in the general election and earn their support,” Begich said in an email to the AP.

Messages sent to the Sweeney, Palin and Peltola campaigns were not returned immediately.

State attorneys said in court files that while the division “sympathized with the public expectation” that four candidates would move forward under the new system, “it lacks discretion to relax an unequivocal legal deadline to meet this goal.” .”

Morse said in his written order that the timeline under which a replacement could take place in this situation “can hardly be shorter”. But, he wrote, “that is the period established by law that the department must apply.”

Sweeney’s campaign has not charged the issue, but she has said she believed she should be moved to fourth and voters should have four candidates to choose from.

The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Young’s term. A regular primary election in August and a general election in November will determine who will serve another two-year term starting in January.

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