Courts to rule on independent candidates

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Alaska Supreme Court will be asked to ban independent candidates from entry into the democratic party primary

    Arguments before the court are scheduled for today in Kenai.

    The Alaska Democratic Party had challenged a state law that requires primary election candidates be registered members of the party whose nomination they're seeking. Democrats scored a victory last fall when Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg said the state was restricting their attempt to appeal to independent voters by not allowing unaffiliated candidates to participate in Democratic primaries.

    The decision applies to the Democratic primary, since that party changed its rules to embrace independent candidates.

    The state, in court filings, contends that if a party nominee doesn't have to identify with their nominating party, the system used by the state to regulate political party status and ballot access "will cease to make sense, party labels will be uninformative, and parties will lose coherence."

    This year once candidate plans to run as an independent in the Democratic primary, Alyse Galvin in the U.S. House race.  There are two candidates running as democrats, Gregory Jones and Dimitri Shein.  Rep. Don Yong, a republican, is also seeking re-election.

    If the high court reverses Pallenberg's decision, candidates who filed to run as independents in the Democratic primary would be "de-certified" and have to refile in a manner for which they're eligible, according to the Division of Elections. For independents, that would mean having to gather signatures to qualify for the general election ballot and bypass the primary process altogether.

    Gov. Bill Walker changed his party affiliation from Republican to undeclared in joining with Democrat Byron Mallott as part of a so-called unity ticket in 2014. In announcing his re-election bid, Walker said the two planned to go the signature-gathering route. A campaign spokeswoman last month said that plan had not changed.

    A Democrat has yet to file for the governor's race. The filing deadline is June 1.

    Politically unaffiliated voters — those labeled as "undeclared" or "nonpartisan" — comprise the largest voting bloc in the state. Anyone, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the Democratic primary.

    Democrats initially sued ahead of the 2016 U.S. Senate race. But that challenge was tossed as premature because it was brought before the Democrats had formally adopted a party rule allowing politically unaffiliated candidates to run in its primaries.

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