Tagalaska

Stories about Alaska

Three candidates advance from Alaska’s special top-four U.S. House primary

A top-four special primary was held for Alaska’s At-Large Congressional District on June 11, 2022. Three candidates—Sarah Palin (R), Nicholas Begich III (R), and Mary Peltola (D)—advanced to the August 16 special general election.

Al Gross (I), the third-place finisher in the special primary, ended his campaign on June 20. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that fifth-place finisher Tara Sweeney (R) could not advance to the special general election amid Gross’ withdrawal.

Forty-eight candidates ran in the June 11 primary—the first top-four congressional primary in U.S. history. All candidates appeared on the same ballot with their affiliations listed next to their names. The general election will use ranked-choice voting.

Former incumbent Rep. Don Young (R) died in March. Young was first elected as Alaska’s U.S. representative in 1973, when he defeated Emil Notti (D) in a special election. Notti ran in the 2022 special primary election. Young also ran for the House in 1972, when Nick Begich Sr. (D) defeated him. Begich Sr. is Begich III’s grandfather.

The winner of the August 16 special general election will serve until the end of the term Young was last elected to—January 3, 2023. The special election is one of two elections, alongside the regularly scheduled election, for Alaska’s at-large House district in 2022. Twenty-four candidates filed to run in both the regular and special elections. The regular top-four primary election will take place August 16.



Alaska completes state legislative redistricting

Alaska completed its state legislative redistricting on May 24 when the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted a new map of state Senate districts at the direction of the Alaska Supreme Court. The state had initially enacted legislative district boundaries on Nov. 10, 2021, following a 3-2 vote by the redistricting board. The three Republican-appointed board members voted in favor of the map and the two nonpartisan board members voted against it.

The Alaska Supreme Court had ruled on March 25 that one state House and one state Senate district did not comply with the state constitution and required the redistricting board to redraw the districts. The Alaska Redistricting Board adopted new legislative district boundaries to comply with the state supreme court’s ruling on April 13. A group of plaintiffs challenged the mapping of state House to state Senate districts and on May 16, the Third District of Alaska’s Superior Court ruled that the April 13 map was unconstitutional.

The Alaska Supreme Court upheld the superior court’s decision on May 24. In its ruling, the state supreme court wrote, “We AFFIRM the superior court’s determination that the Board again engaged in unconstitutional political gerrymandering to increase the one group’s voting power at the expense of others.” The court’s ruling also affirmed “the superior court’s order that the Board adopt the Option 2 proclamation plan as an interim plan for the 2022 elections.”

As of May 25, 48 states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers. The Ohio Supreme Court overturned that state’s previously enacted maps and Montana has not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census.

Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,890 of 1,973 state Senate seats (95.8%) and 5,214 of 5,413 state House seats (96.3%).

Additional reading:



The first-ever top-four congressional primary is on June 11 in Alaska

A special election for Alaska’s At-Large Congressional District in the U.S. House will take place in 2022. Former incumbent Rep. Don Young (R) died on March 18, 2022.

top-four special primary is on June 11, 2022. This is the first top-four congressional primary in U.S. history. All candidates will appear on the same ballot with their affiliations listed next to their names. The four candidates with the most votes will advance to the general election, which will use ranked-choice voting.

Forty-eight candidates filed by the April 1, 2022, deadline. The special primary election ballot comprises:

  • 22 candidates running as nonpartisan or with undeclared affiliation
  • 16 Republicans
  • 6 Democrats
  • 2 Libertarians
  • 1 American Independent Party member
  • 1 Alaskan Independence Party member

The candidates who have received the most media attention and been included in public opinion polls are Nicholas Begich III (R), North Pole City Councilmember Santa Claus (I), former state Sen. John Coghill (R), Anchorage Assemblymember Christopher Constant (D), 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross (I), Jeff Lowenfels (I), former governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (R), former state Rep. Mary Peltola (D), state Sen. Josh Revak (R), former Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tara Sweeney (R), and state Rep. Adam Wool (D). Revak and Sweeney were co-chairs of Young’s 2022 re-election campaign.

Young was first elected as Alaska’s U.S. representative in 1973, when he defeated Emil Notti (D) in a special election. Notti is running in the 2022 special primary election. Young also ran for the House in 1972, when Nick Begich Sr. (D) defeated him. Begich Sr. is Begich III’s grandfather.

The special general election will be held Aug. 16, 2022. The winner of that election will serve until the end of the term Young was last elected to—Jan. 3, 2023. The special election is one of two elections, alongside the regularly scheduled election, for Alaska’s at-large House district in 2022. As of May 20, 18 candidates had filed to run in both the regular and special elections, including all those named above except Claus. The filing deadline for the regular election is June 1.

Here is a timeline for each primary and general election in 2022:

June 11, 2022:

Aug. 16, 2022:

Nov. 8, 2022:

As of May 26, 2022, 14 special elections have been called during the 117th Congress. From the 113th Congress to the 116th Congress, 50 special elections were held.



Signatures submitted for Alaska initiative providing formal state recognition of federally recognized American Indian tribes in Alaska

On Jan. 13, 2022, Alaskans for Better Government submitted about 56,200 signatures for the ballot initiative. The ballot initiative would provide for formal state recognition of federally recognized American Indian tribes in Alaska.

Alaska has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equal to 7% of the vote in the last general election must be collected in each of three-fourths of the 40 Alaska House of Representatives districts. The campaign reported that signatures were collected from each of the 40 legislative districts. To qualify for the ballot, 36,140 of the signatures must be valid. Signatures needed to be submitted before the Alaska State Legislature convenes on Jan. 18, 2022. If the lieutenant governor certifies enough signatures as valid, the legislature can approve the indirect initiative or equivalent legislation, keeping the measure off the ballot. If the legislature does not enact the initiative, it will appear on the November 2022 ballot.

Alaskans for Better Government said, “This would create a long overdue permanent government-to-government relationship between the State and our Alaska Native Tribes. The math is quite simple: 1 + 1 = 2. With a respectful partnership we’ll have more ways to enhance the lives of Alaskans by streamlining services; partnering to amplify federal and state funding for deep, sustainable, and long-term impact; and tapping in to the 10,000 plus years of Indigenous brilliance, diversity, and knowledge of our Native homelands that so many now call home. The basis of any good relationship is respect, and too often when sovereign governments cannot work together our Tribal peoples disproportionately bear the price of injustice, diminishing equity, liberty, and freedoms for all.”

According to campaign finance reports covering information through Jan. 7, 2022, the Alaskans for Better Government campaign had raised $622,092 and has spent $485,759. The top donors were the Sixteen Thirty Fund ($500,000) and Tides Advocacy ($100,000).

Attorney General Treg Taylor (R) issued a review of the ballot initiative, stating that “[i]t is not clear whether the state recognition… would have any legal effect on the relationship between tribes and the State.” Taylor also noted that Legislative Legal Services analyzed a similar bill, concluding that “the bill would not have any legal effect, because the United States and Alaska Supreme Courts have already held that federally recognized tribes are sovereign entities.”[3] Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson, President of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, said, “As we try to build communities, build a better Alaska, it’s about relationships. And so the fact that the state of Alaska doesn’t recognize us currently is kind of a barrier in the building blocks, right? So that’s what it really comes down to.”

From 2000 to 2020, 45 statewide measures have been on the ballot in Alaska. Of the 45 measures, 22 were approved (48.89%) and 23 were defeated (51.11%).



Alaska adopts final state legislative map

On Nov. 10, 2021, the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted a new legislative map outlining the state’s 20 Senate districts and 40 House districts as part of the 2020 redistricting cycle. While the new map has been enacted, there will now be a 30-day period during which interested parties may file legal challenges against the new map.

The board’s three Republican-appointed members—John Binkley, Bethany Marcum, and Budd Simpson— voted in favor of the final map while the two nonpartisan members—Melanie Bahnke and Nicole Borromeo—voted against it.

The Midnight Sun’s Matt Buxton wrote that, during the Nov. 10 meeting, Bahnke and Borromeo, “pulled no punches when arguing that the Senate pairing for the Anchorage-area … were both a racial and partisan gerrymander that favored conservatives and drew the entirety of the plan into question.”

Regarding the process, Binkley, the board’s chairman, said, “I think the board earnestly … tried to put together a fair plan … But sometimes, those are in the eyes of the beholder. And some people … can look at one plan and say it’s fair. Other people can look at it and say it’s not fair.”

KTOO’s Andrew Kitchenman reported that, since the new map largely altered the state’s Senate districts, 19 of the 20 districts will hold elections in 2022. Alaska normally staggers elections to its Senate with half the chamber holding elections in one even-year cycle and the other half holding elections in the next and all members serving four-year terms. In 2022, certain districts will elect senators to two-year terms while others will elect them to four-year terms in order to restart the staggered process under the new lines. Alaska’s House districts hold elections every two years.

Additional reading:



Juneau voters approve sales tax renewal measure

Photo of the city of Juneau, Alaska

Voters in Juneau approved a measure on October 5 that renewed for five years (until June 30, 2027) the city’s 3% sales tax set to expire on July 1, 2022. The measure continued the existing total sales tax rate of 5%. The measure was put on the ballot through a vote of the Juneau Assembly.

With 40% of ballots counted on October 9, the vote was 3,560 (80%) in favor to 885 (20%) against. Official election results are expected to be available on October 19, 2021.

The 3% sales tax revenues will be distributed as follows:

  1. One percent for police, fire, emergency and ambulance services, street maintenance and snow removal, parks and recreation, libraries, and other general purposes;
  2. One percent for roads, drainage, maintaining walls, sidewalks, and stairs, as well as other capital improvements; and
  3. One percent tobe allocated annually by the assembly for capital improvements, an emergency budget reserve, and other general public services.

Voters last renewed the 3% temporary tax in Oct. 2016 in a vote of 76% to 24%. At the same election in 2016, voters rejected a measure 66% to 34% that would have made the 3% sales tax permanent. Juneau Budget Analyst Adrien Speegle estimated the tax generates $30 million per year.



Voters in Juneau, Alaska, decide Tuesday whether to renew a 3% sales tax

Photo of the city of Juneau, Alaska

On Oct. 5, voters in Juneau, Alaska, will decide a ballot measure—Proposition 1—to renew the city’s 3% temporary sales tax for five years. If voters don’t approve Proposition 1 the tax would expire on July 1, 2022. If voters approve Proposition 1, the city’s total sales tax rate would remain at 5%: this 3% temporary tax, a 1% temporary tax, and a 1% permanent sales tax. If voters reject Proposition 1, the total sales tax rate in the city would drop to 2%.

The Juneau Assembly’s intended use of the revenue from the tax would continue as follows:

  1. 1% police, fire, street maintenance, snow removal, EMT/ambulance service, parks and recreation, libraries, and other general purposes;
  2. 1% roads, drainage, retaining walls, sidewalks, stairs, and other capital improvements; and
  3. 1% allocated annually by the assembly among capital improvements, an emergency budget reserve, and other general public services.

Voters last renewed the 3% temporary tax in Oct. 2016. Juneau Budget Analyst Adrien Speegle estimated the tax generates $30 million per year.



45 years ago, Alaska voters approved measure removing residency requirement for presidential elections

Forty-five years ago—on August 23, 1966—Alaska voters approved a measure permitting the state legislature to shorten the residency requirement for persons living in Alaska who wished to vote only for President and Vice President of the United States. It was the first measure the state legislature referred to the ballot since Alaska received statehood in January 1959. Voters approved the amendment 75% to 25%.

According to a 1963 Senate Judiciary Committee report on proposed constitutional amendments, 35 states required residents to live in their current state for one year before becoming eligible to vote. These laws prevented people from voting—even for President—when they moved between states. The Senate even drafted a constitutional amendment to eliminate such requirements nationwide.

Here is a quote from the 1963 Senate Judiciary Committee report summarizing the issue:

“The victims of these outmoded residence requirements include many citizens who are best equipped to exercise the right of voting, such as educators, clergymen, and professional people. Interstate businesses constantly shift managers, salesmen, and other executives. The American Heritage Foundation estimates that 8 million adult American citizens were barred from the ballot box in the 1960 elections by inability to meet State, county, or precinct residence requirements. Apart from the possible effects upon election results, this produces apathy and bitterness in such people toward governments which cheat them of their democratic birthright merely because they move their residence.”

The Alaska measure removed the one-year voter residency requirement that was in the state Constitution. The following year—in 1967—the Alaska legislature eliminated those residency requirements in state law. 

In 1970, Congress amended the Voting Rights Act and abolished state residency requirements nationwide as a precondition for voting for President and established uniform standards for absentee voting in presidential elections.

Additional reading:

https://ballotpedia.org/Voting_Rights_Act

https://ballotpedia.org/List_of_Alaska_ballot_measures



Governors appoint new supreme court justices in two states

Alaska and Arizona have new state supreme court justices after appointments from their respective governors. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed Jennifer Stuart Henderson to the Alaska Supreme Court on July 7, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Kathryn Hackett King to the Arizona Supreme Court on July 8.

Alaska

A seat on the Alaska Supreme Court became vacant when former Chief Justice Joel Bolger retired on June 30, 2021. Gov. Dunleavy selected Jennifer Stuart Henderson for the seat from a list of three finalists forwarded by the Alaska Judicial Council (AJC). Henderson is Gov. Dunleavy’s second nominee to the five-member supreme court.

On July 1, Dunleavy asked the AJC to reconsider its list of nominees and put forward a new slate to fill the vacancy. However, under the council’s bylaws, it may not reconsider nominees that have been sent to the governor except in specific circumstances. Ultimately, Dunleavy appointed Henderson from the original slate of three names put forward by the AJC.

Prior to her appointment to the supreme court, Henderson served as a judge on the Alaska superior court. She was appointed to the superior court in 2012 by former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R). Her career experience also includes working as an assistant district attorney in Anchorage and as an attorney in private practice with the law firm of Farley & Graves. After law school, she served as a clerk for former Alaska Supreme Court Justice Warren Matthews. Henderson earned a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Arizona

A seat on the Arizona Supreme Court became vacant when former Justice Andrew W. Gould retired on April 1, 2021. Gov. Ducey selected Kathryn Hackett King for the seat from a slate of nominees put forward by the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. King is Gov. Ducey’s sixth nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Before her appointment to the supreme court, King was a partner at the law firm of BurnsBarton PLC. She also served as a member of the Arizona Board of Regents. From 2015 to 2017, King served as the deputy general counsel to Gov. Ducey. She previously practiced law at Snell & Wilmer LLP. After graduation from law school, King clerked for former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Michael D. Ryan from 2007 to 2008. She is the fifth woman in Arizona history to serve on the state supreme court.

King earned a B.A. in political science from Duke University and a J.D. from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

In 2021, there have been 14 supreme court vacancies in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. To date, nine of those 14 vacancies have been filled.

Additional reading:



Alaska Supreme Court Justice Joel Bolger retires

Alaska Supreme Court Justice Joel Bolger retired on June 30. Former Gov. Sean Parnell (R) appointed Bolger to the state supreme court in 2013, and voters retained him in 2016 with 57% of the vote. When he retired, Bolger was the court’s chief justice, a position he had held since 2018.

Bolger is the only justice in Alaska’s history to have been appointed to all four levels of the state court system. Before joining the Alaska Supreme Court, he was a judge of the Alaska Court of Appeals from 2008 to 2013, the Kodiak Superior Court from 2003 to 2008, and the Valdez District Court from 1997 to 2003. 

When there is a midterm vacancy on the Alaska Supreme Court, the governor selects a nominee based on recommendations from the Alaska Judicial Council. To remain in office, the new appointee must stand for retention in the first general election after they serve at least three years on the bench. After that, the judge is subject to a retention election every 10 years.

Republican governors appointed three of the four active Alaska Supreme Court justices; an independent governor appointed the fourth. Bolger’s replacement will be Gov. Dunleavy’s (R) second appointee to the state supreme court.

In 2021, there have been 14 state supreme court vacancies caused by retirements in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.

Additional reading:

Alaska Supreme Court

Joel Bolger

State supreme court vacancies, 2021

Judicial selection in Alaska