This July 28, 2022, photo shows a person completing a ballot in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, where people ranked the performances by drag performers, one of the education efforts about ranked choice voting in elections that year. (Mark Thiessen/AP file photo)

This July 28, 2022, photo shows a person completing a ballot in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, where people ranked the performances by drag performers, one of the education efforts about ranked choice voting in elections that year. (Mark Thiessen/AP file photo)

Lawsuit asks judge to disqualify ballot measure that seeks to repeal Alaska’s ranked voting system

Three Alaska voters have filed a lawsuit seeking to disqualify a ballot measure that aims to repeal the state’s open primary and ranked vote elections system, citing errors in the signature collection and approval process.

The lawsuit, filed in state court Tuesday, names elections officials and the Division of Elections as defendants. The division last month certified that a ballot group called Alaskans for Honest Elections gathered enough signatures to qualify the repeal measure for this year’s ballot. The repeal initiative likely would appear on the November ballot. The timing depends on when the Legislature adjourns.

Attorney Scott Kendall, an author of the successful 2020 ballot measure that scrapped party primaries in favor of open primaries and instituted ranked voting in general elections, filed the lawsuit on behalf of three voters, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The voters are Elizabeth Medicine Crow, a former president of the First Alaskans Institute; Amber Lee, a political consultant in Anchorage; and Kevin McGee, a past president of the Anchorage branch of the NAACP.

The lawsuit alleges that sponsors behind Alaskans for Honest Elections “intentionally conducted their signature petition drive illegally, thereby disqualifying thousands of signatures.” It says that sponsors of the initiative broke the law by instructing signature gatherers to leave signature books unattended. The lawsuit also says the Division of Elections unlawfully allowed the group to notarize signature booklets after they were submitted. Without those booklets, the measure would not meet the minimum signature requirements to qualify for the ballot, the lawsuit says.

Patty Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Law, said the lawsuit was being reviewed.

The lawsuit says the division “repeatedly warned” leaders of the ballot group about leaving booklets unattended. State law requires that signature gatherers certify that “the signatures were made in the circulator’s actual presence.” If that requirement is not met, the law says the signatures should not be counted.

Phillip Izon, a sponsor of the repeal initiative, said his group would not seek to intervene in the case.

“Everything that was done was per the Division of Elections. They’re the ones that instructed us and told us what we had to do,” he said. “We’re not even entering into the lawsuit because we feel comfortable with everything.”

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