On January 14, Alaska Representative Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage) introduced HB 77, to provide for a top-two election system for state office and congress. The bill says that anyone who doesn’t qualify for the general election ballot may file as a declared write-in candidate for the November election, even if that person ran in the primary and didn’t place first or second. The bill also lets candidates choose any party label. The label can be the name of a qualified party, or it can be the name of a “political group.” “Political group” is defined in Alaska law as “a group of organized voters which represents a political program and which does not qualify as a political party.” There are no numerical or organization requirements to be a political group, so in essence a candidate could choose any label, and the label need have no connection with how the candidate is registered to vote.
The bill’s provision for electing a Lieutenant Governor is awkward. Unlike the other top-two states (Louisiana, Washington, and California), Alaska elects a Lieutenant Governor jointly with the Governor in November. However, in the Alaska primary, the offices are voted on separately. HB 77 says the gubernatorial candidate who places first in the primary may choose, as a Lieutenant Governor running mate, either the person who came in first, or the person who came in second, in the primary. Then, the gubernatorial candidate who placed second in the primary must run with the Lieutenant Governor candidate who placed either first or second but who was not chosen by the other gubernatorial candidate. This could force the gubernatorial candidate who had placed second in the primary to run with someone from an opposing party. For example, if in the gubernatorial primary a Republican placed first and a Democrat placed second, but in the Lieutenant Governor primary two Republicans placed first and second, then the Democratic gubernatorial candidate would be forced to run with a Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate.
Also at Ballot Access News:
On January 13, former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards was released from federal prison. See this story. Edwards is the person who invented the “top-two” election system. He not only persuaded the Louisiana legislature to pass the idea in 1975; he also carried on a high-powered campaign to persuade the U.S. Justice Department, Voting Rights Section, to approve the idea. The Department had previously rejected the idea when Mississippi had passed it.
Edwards believed the top-two system would make it easier for conservative Democrats to continue to win elections in Louisiana. Louisiana has been using that system for state and local elections for the past 35 years. Louisiana used it for congressional elections between 1978 and 2006, and during those years, no incumbent member of either House of Congress was ever defeated for re-election (except in 1992 when, because of redistricting, incumbents had to run against each other). Washington state started using the top-two system in 2008, and no incumbent member of Congress from that state has been defeated for re-election either, since top-two has been in effect.