Articles Posted in Election Law

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Appellants Richard Hughes, the Alaska Miners Association, and the Council of Alaska Producers challenged Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell's certification of a ballot initiative that would require final legislative approval for any large-scale metallic sulfide mining operation located within the Bristol Bay watershed. Appellants argued that the initiative violated the constitutional prohibitions on appropriation and enacting local or special legislation by initiative. Following oral argument, the Alaska Supreme Court issued an order affirming the superior court's summary judgment order in favor of the State and the initiative sponsors, and allowing preparation of ballots to proceed. View "Hughes v. Treadwell" on Justia Law

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Robert Gillam and two of his business ventures filed suit, alleging that the Alaska Public Offices Commission should not have been allowed to investigate and decide whether Gillam and his businesses had committed certain campaign finance violations. Gillam alleged that both the Executive Director and the Chair of the Commission were biased and that further consideration by the Commission would violate his right to due process protected by the Alaska and federal constitutions and his Alaska constitutional right to a fair investigation. The superior court concluded that Gillam’s claims were not ripe and that Gillam has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Upon review, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed that there was an administrative recusal procedure for Gillam’s state law claims and that Gillam needed to exhaust that remedy before bringing his state law claims to court. The Court also agreed that Gillam’s federal due process claim was not ripe because the recusal procedure might resolve that claim. View "RBG Bush Planes, LLC v. Kirk" on Justia Law

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Appellant James Price appealed a superior court order affirming the Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk's rejection of his ballot referendum application. The proposed referendum would have repealed Borough Ordinance 2008-28, which authorized the general law cities within the Borough to tax non-prepared food items on a year-round basis. The Borough Clerk and the superior court rejected the application on the ground that it violated AS 29.26.100's prohibition on local or special legislation. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the referendum did not violate the prohibition on local or special legislation and would be enforceable if passed. Accordingly, the Court reversed. View "Price v. Kenai Peninsula Borough" on Justia Law

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Five voters owned homes in a borough and a home outside that borough. Two of the voters voted in the borough's 2010 election. All five voted in the borough's 2011 election. Although each voter was registered to vote, the borough's canvassing committee rejected the voters' ballots in each election on the ground that they were not borough residents. The voters appealed to the superior court and brought direct claims against the borough and a number of borough officials in their official and individual capacities. The court ruled that the voters were borough residents and legally qualified to vote in the 2010 and 2011 borough elections, and that the voters were to remain eligible to vote in future borough elections absent substantial changes in circumstances. The court denied the voters full reasonable attorney fees against the borough under AS 09.60.010(c), concluding that they did not bring constitutional claims, but awarded them partial attorney fees under Alaska Civil Rule 82. The borough appealed the residency determinations and the voters appealed the attorney fees awards. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decisions that the voters were borough residents and eligible to vote in the 2010 and 2011 borough elections, but vacated the order that the voters were automatically eligible to vote in future elections. The Court reversed the superior court's determination that the voters did not bring constitutional claims covered by AS 09.60.010(c), and remanded the case on the fee issue. View "Lake & Peninsula Borough Assembly v. Oberlatz" on Justia Law

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The Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance modifying the labor relations chapter of the Anchorage Municipal Code. Two citizen-sponsors filed an application for a referendum that would repeal the ordinance. The Municipality rejected the application, reasoning that the proposed referendum addressed administrative matters that were not proper subjects for direct citizen legislation. The sponsors filed suit in superior court and prevailed on summary judgment. The Municipality appealed, arguing that the referendum was barred because: (1) state and municipal law grants exclusive authority over labor relations to the Assembly; (2) the referendum made an appropriation; and (3) its subject was administrative, not legislative. Following oral argument, the Supreme Court issued an order on January 10, 2014, affirming the superior court's grant of summary judgment to the sponsors. This opinion explained the Court's reasoning. View "Municipality of Anchorage v. Holleman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court issued an order remanding a proposed redistricting plan to the redistricting board with instructions to formulate a new plan in compliance with state case law. Upon remand, the board was instructed to follow a certain process so that the Court could appropriately judge whether its violations of the Alaska Constitution were absolutely necessary for compliance with federal law. The board then submitted a modified plan to the superior court that changed four of forty house districts from the original plan. The amended plan was rejected by the superior court because the board failed to follow the process mandated by the Supreme Court. The board petitioned the Supreme Court for review of the superior court's conclusion on the amended plan. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the board again failed to follow the process the Court ordered on remand, and affirmed the decision of the superior court and required the board to draft a new plan for the 2014 elections. View "In Re 2011 Redistricting Cases" on Justia Law

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In an October 2007 election, Kenai Peninsula Borough voters approved local initiatives establishing term limits for members of the Borough Assembly and the school board. But voters also reelected five incumbents who, by the terms of the initiatives, would be ineligible to serve an additional term. The Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers (ACT) filed a lawsuit against the Borough requesting a court declaration that the initiatives applied to candidates chosen in the October 2007 election and that the seats held by the five incumbents were vacant. The Borough argued that the initiatives were invalid. The superior court granted partial summary judgment to ACT and partial summary judgment to the Borough and, therefore, did not designate either as the prevailing party. ACT appealed the superior court's decision not to name a prevailing party and argued that ACT should have been named the prevailing party. After its review of the case, the Supreme Court concluded that ACT and the Borough both prevailed on distinct issues central to the case. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the superior court’s decision not to name a prevailing party or award attorney's fees and costs to either party. View "Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers, Inc. v. Kenai Peninsula Borough" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case concerned the validity of two 2005 Kenai Peninsula Borough (Borough) ordinances: one enacted by the Borough Assembly and the second enacted by voter initiative. The Borough Assembly enacted an ordinance in June 2005 that increased the sales tax rate from two percent to three percent. In an October 2005 election, Borough voters passed an initiative that required prior voter approval for all Borough capital projects with a total cost of more than one million dollars. The Alliance for Concerned Taxpayers (ACT) challenged the sales tax increase and sought to enforce the capital projects voter approval requirement. The superior court granted summary judgment to the Borough on both matters: on the sales tax issue, reasoning that a 1964 voter action allowed the increase and the 2006 referendum defeat ratified it; and on the capital projects voter approval issue, reasoning that Proposition 4 was an unconstitutional use of the initiative power to appropriate a public asset. ACT appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's grant of summary judgment on the sales tax issue and the capital project voter approval issue, concluding the 1964 voter authorization of a three-percent sales tax preserved the Borough's right to raise the rate to three percent, and that the 2006 defeat of the referendum to repeal the rate increase constituted a ratification of the increase. On the voter approval issue, the Court concluded that allowing voters to veto any capital improvement projects of over $1 million had the effect of diluting the Borough Assembly's exclusive control over the budget and was therefore an impermissible appropriation. View "Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers, Inc. v. Kenai Peninsula Borough" on Justia Law