Superior Court judge on Wednesday ordered the state to rewrite,
reprint and redistribute all its ballots for the Nov. 2 election,
saying the wording of a ballot initiative was inaccurate and biased.
officials said that they could comply with the order, but that it
would take 15 days and cost nearly $300,000 to replace 517,000
ballots. They also would have to send replacements for about 4,500
ballots that have already been mailed to people overseas and in the
most remote parts of Alaska.
Department of Law spokesman said he did not know whether the state
ballot initiative concerns how the state fills its U.S. Senate
vacancies, which became a heated issue in Alaska after Republican
Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa Murkowski to his Senate
seat when he was elected governor in 2002.
the governor can appoint a replacement to a vacant Senate seat. The
initiative, put forth by a group that includes several Democratic
legislators, would abolish appointments and require a special
election in all cases except when the vacancy occurs within 60 days
of a primary election.
Gov. Loren Leman, the Republican chief of the Division of Elections,
twice removed the measure from the Nov. 2 ballot but was ordered by
the Alaska Supreme Court to put it back on.
wrote the initiative's ballot summary, which said the proposition
would leave Alaska without full representation in the Senate for
three to five months.
group that petitioned for the initiative, Trust the People, sued for
an injunction once it discovered the language of the summary on
Sept. 21. The group said that with a special election, a vacant seat
could be filled in three months in almost all cases.
Morgan Christen agreed with the group that the four-sentence summary
was inaccurate and biased. The summary also says the measure would
leave Alaska without full representation in the Senate, wording that
is not impartial, she wrote.
one consequence to the exclusion of others is impermissible
advocacy," Christen wrote.
a hearing Wednesday, an attorney for Trust the People, Jeff Feldman,
accused Leman of resisting the proposition at every stage, keeping
the language of the summary secret and trying to run out the clock
before changes could be made.
Attorney General Sarah Felix said at the hearing that the summary
adequately described the effects of the initiative and that it was
too late to change the ballots. The summary was posted on the
Division of Election's Web site on Sept. 8, she said.
wrote in her order that the cost and delay could have been avoided
if the state had shown the summary to the group before printing the
ordered the state to write a new summary, submit the new language to
initiative sponsors and file it with the court. Trust the People
will have a day to object to the new summary.
Godkin, an administrative supervisor for the Division of Elections,
said it will take 15 days to reprint and redistribute the ballots
and will cost the state about $295,000.
are required to arrive at regional election offices 25 days before
the election. Reprinting and redistributing them will break that
deadline, but Godkin said there is little danger of any precinct not
receiving its ballots by Nov. 2, or of any absentee or early voter
not being able to cast a ballot.
from the 4,500 advance ballots, Alaskans can vote absentee in person
or by fax up to 15 days before an election, or by mail seven days
before an election.
Murkowski is running to keep her job Nov. 2, facing Democrat Tony
Knowles, a two-term former governor.