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Citizens United: How Ruling Is Greasing Alaska's Fall Elections Already

Posted: 06/27/2012 9:50 am

It should come as no surprise that Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty is challenging the federal government's "intrusion" into state election laws. Geraghty recently filed a letter of protest in redistricting litigation over requirements under the Voting Rights Act that Alaska obtain federal approval before any changes to state electoral processes. Because of its history of discrimination, Alaska is one of a handful of states required to obtain Department of Justice preclearance on electoral changes.

In a press release announcing the challenge, Geraghty said the U.S. Constitution "does not authorize the federal government to dictate every detail of our elections." Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is in charge of the Division of Elections, followed Geraghty's lead. "This federal intrusion into our state elections is unnecessary, burdensome, and unconstitutional. Congress has no basis to micromanage Alaska's elections."

It's just the latest in a long list of issues perceived by the current administration as violating state sovereignty. But another high-profile state sovereignty case before the U.S. Supreme Court over election-related federal edicts wasn't enjoined by the state of Alaska.

Why didn't Alaska join 23 other states challenging Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission? The decision found that corporations and unions enjoy the same free speech protections as individual Americans to spend unlimited amounts of money for and against political candidates, as long as those groups don't coordinate with candidates.

This year, Montana, citing a long history of corporate influence in its election laws, put its foot down when it came to changing state election laws to conform with Citizens United. A Virginia-based group called American Traditional Partnership challenged. The Montana Supreme Court upheld the state's intransigence. Twenty-two other states, along with the District of Columbia, joined Montana in its challenge to Citizens United. Citing sovereignty issues, among those states were Utah and Idaho.

Geraghty said that he decided against joining the suit. "Outcome of the case is unlikely to affect Alaska's laws because after Citizens United, the Legislature changed Alaska statutes in response to that decision," he said.

He didn't say that Alaska election laws were changed by the Legislature in part based on advisory decisions made by the Attorney General's office. ....

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