On June 3, a lower Alaska state court upheld Alaska’s new definition of “political party.” Green Party of Alaska v State, 3AN-05-10787. The same judge had granted an injunction on February 8, 2006, leaving the Green Party on the ballot through November 2006. But in June 2007, she wrote that she had to uphold the new definition of “political party”, because the Alaska Supreme Court had upheld the old definition of “political party” on November 17, 2006. It doesn’t logically follow that just because the old definition is constitutional, that the new definition is constitutional (after all, the new definition is tougher than the old one), but the result wasn’t surprising. The Green Party will not appeal to the State Supreme Court.
The old definition of “political party” was a group that had either polled 3% for Governor, of which had registration equal to 3% of the last gubernatorial vote.
The new definition of “political party” was passed in 2004. As with the old definition, it provides a registration alternative and a vote test alternative. The new registration test is more severe than the old registration test. The new registration test is 3% of the last vote cast. Since there is a much higher turnout in Alaska, and in all states, in a presidential year than in a mid-term year, this boosts the registration test approximately 25% in years after a presidential election, compared to the years before a presidential election.
The 3% vote test alternative in the new definition of “political party” is also more difficult. Whereas the old definition only required the vote test to be met every 4 years, the new definition requires it to be met every 2 years. The office to which the new 3% vote test applies is Governor in the mid-term years, and U.S. Senator in presidential years. If U.S. Senator isn’t up in a particular presidential election year, then the U.S. House race is used.
The Green Party was not in a good position to challenge the voter registration alternative in the new vote test, since it has never had registration equal to 3% of either the vote cast in a gubernatorial year, much less in a presidential year.
When the Green Party filed this case in 2005, it was in a good position to challenge the vote test part of the new law. It had polled almost 4% for U.S. House, but less than 1% for president and U.S. Senate. It had argued that the vote for any statewide race should count (in Alaska, U.S. House is a statewide race). But that argument was moot after the November 2006 election, because the Green Party didn’t poll 3% for any statwide race in 2006.