ACLU of Alaska Applauds Supreme Court Decision Upholding Political Parties' Right to Combine Primaries

Affiliate: ACLU of Alaska
August 12, 2005 12:00 am

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ANCHORAGE –The American Civil Liberties Uion of Alaska today welcomed a state Supreme Court decision upholding the right of political parties in Alaska to conduct joint primaries.

The ruling supported arguments advanced by the ACLU of Alaska in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in support the Green Party and Republican Moderate Party and upheld the decision of the state Superior Court in a lawsuit filed against the state following the 2002 election.

“”We congratulate the Green and Repbulican Moderate Parties in striking an effective blow for greater voter participation in the primary process,”” said Michael W. Macleod-Ball, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska. “”We are pleased that the state’s highest court saw the wisdom of the arguments against artificial restrictions on voter involvement.””

At issue in the case was Alaska’s prohibition of “”blanket”” primaries, in which a single ballot lists every candidate regardless of party and permits a voter to vote freely among them. The prohibition arose from a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling finding such primaries unconstitutional because they compelled a party to allow non-members to vote in its primary even if it wished to exclude such non-members. Following that ruling, the Alaska Legislature had revised its statutes to permit open primaries, closed primaries, or partially closed primaries – and prohibited blanket primaries.

The lawsuit decided today determined that the prohibition of blanket primaries was just as impermissible as compelling blanket primaries to the exclusion of other types of elections.

“”Today’s decision just makes good common sense,”” said Jason Brandeis, the ACLU of Alaska’s staff attorney. “”It’s just logical that a political party should be able to decide for itself whom it wants to allow to vote in its primaries. This decision upholds that concept of flexibility.””

Brandeis emphasized that the Alaska court reiterated the concept that the liberties granted under the Alaska Constitution are broader in scope than under federal law. The court noted that the winning parties had a successful argument not only under federal constitutional law, but also under state constitutional law. Brandeis asserted that this conclusion made an appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court less likely.

Suzanne Lapierre and Jonathan Rubini served as cooperating counsel for the ACLU of Alaska on a pro bono basis.

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