September 08, 2004
The bill requires that the state hold an open primary election but allows partisan political parties to opt out of the state-sponsored primary if they don't want to restore Alaskan voters' ability to select nominees across party lines. The parties that choose to opt out of the state-sponsored-and-paid-for primary election can select their general election nominees by other means.
"Partisans have hijacked our primary. They crafted a confusing primary ballot process that limits choices for Alaskans and then they got the state to pay for their closed selection process," Elton said. "My proposal doesn't compel parties to take part in a state-sponsored, state-paid-for primary election. But if they do participate in the state's primary, they must allow freedom of choice for Alaska's voters."
The closed primary paradigm has driven costs up and voter turnout down, Elton said. "Alaskans aren't happy with a confusing and restrictive primary process. This was, and is, my solution," he said. Elton first introduced the bill in 2001 but the Republican legislature adopted the restrictive closed primary approach instead.
"In 2001, we ended up with a primary election process only party hacks could love," Elton said. "If the Republicans, or any other Alaska political party, want to have a nominee selection process only for voters they sanction, fine-they can pay for it." Elton noted they can hold their own election, nominate by convention or caucus, or even allow party chairs like Randy Ruedrich to anoint general election ballot nominees by laying a sword blade on the chosen's shoulder."
This primary proposal meets the dictates of the U.S. Supreme Court, said Elton, because the state would not compel parties to participate in a freedom-of-choice primary.
Prior to 2000, Alaska's primary
election ballot had all candidates on one ballot and Alaska voters
could vote for any candidate for elective office regardless of
party affiliation. In 2000, at the request of the Alaska Republican
Party, emergency regulations were adopted to reflect a new U.S.
Supreme Court decision that struck down Alaska's wide-open primary.
That court ruled the state could not force political parties
to participate in a primary election where voters of any party
could help select one party's nominees. In 2001, the Alaska Legislature
rejected some more palatable alternatives and codified the closed
primary system that the state pays for but which allows partisan
parties to cull non-party members from participation in their
nominee process. The vote was almost straight down party lines
with almost every legislative Republican voting for the restrictive
primary and almost every Democrat opposed.
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