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Alaska Legislature

After Libertarian challenge, Alaska elections officials reprint ballots for 4 state House districts

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: September 28
  • Published September 28

An Alaska Division of Elections employee runs absentee ballots through a scanner on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020 at the Region I office in Juneau, Alaska. (James Brooks / ADN)

The Alaska Division of Elections is reprinting 81,500 ballots in four state House districts after a Libertarian candidate said a new ballot design violated state law.

Libertarian Scott Kohlhaas requested the reprinting — but did not request the correction of already-sent absentee ballots — after a redesign of the state’s ballot left off his political affiliation. Instead, he was listed on ballots only as “petition nominee,” referring to the way he had gathered signatures in order to be listed on the ballot.

State law says the “names and the political group affiliation” of petition-nominated candidates must be listed on the ballot.

Kohlhaas said Division of Elections director Gail Fenumiai decided on Thursday night to reprint ballots for Chugiak and Palmer — where a Libertarian is running for state Senate — for Kohlhaas' Anchorage district, and for southwestern Alaska, where a member of the tiny Veterans Party of Alaska is on the ballot. He said he still filed a lawsuit over the issue on Friday because he wanted to make sure that officials follow suit.

The Division of Elections did not respond to questions, but the reprinting was confirmed by the Alaska Department of Law, which also confirmed Kohlhaas' description of events.

“There are three races that are at issue: two state house districts and one state Senate District. Because the Senate District contains two house districts, you have to update the ballots for two house districts. Thus four house district ballots have to be updated. 81,500 total ballots were reprinted for the four impacted district ballots,” said Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr.

Bahr said an “unintentional omission” led to improper labels for Libertarian candidates.

Elections officials redesigned the state’s ballot in June but didn’t publicly announce the change. Sample ballots were released in mid-September and drew attention only after one was posted on social media.

Last week, the Division of Elections successfully defended itself against a ballot-related lawsuit brought by Alyse Galvin, the Democratic-nominated independent running for U.S. House against Republican Don Young. Galvin sought to force the division to reprint 800,000 ballots statewide, but her proposed court order was rejected by the Alaska Supreme Court.

Galvin reached the ballot through the Democratic Party’s primary. (Alaska Democrats allow independents to run in their primary elections.) On ballots statewide, Galvin is identified only as “Democratic nominee” — a change from 2018, when she was listed on ballots as the Democratic nominee and also had her independent affiliation noted.

Since Galvin reached the ballot through the primary, and not by petition, the state law cited by Kohlhaas in his lawsuit does not apply to her.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, faces Kohlhaas and Republican Paul Bauer in the general election. “The Division of Elections is being selective in ways that advantage conservative candidates and are being selective in the way they are implementing things,” Spohnholz said.

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