Alaska elections officials say Sweeney can’t fill vacancy on US House ballot. Her campaign disagrees.

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Tara Sweeney (Photo by Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska voters may only have three candidates to rank on the state’s first ranked choice ballot, re-shaping the special election for U.S. House in August.

Candidate Al Gross, who won a spot on the special general ballot by finishing third in the primary, shook up the race by announcing Monday that he’s dropping out.

Several campaign consultants and election law experts opined that because Gross withdrew before the primary was certified, and before the deadline for dropping out, the fifth place finisher, Republican Tara Sweeney, would advance to the special general election.

But the Division of Elections announced its interpretation Tuesday afternoon: “Because this withdrawal occurred less than 64 days before the election, Alaska law does not permit the fifth-place candidate to advance allow for the fifth-ranked candidate to advance,” Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said in a letter.

Sweeney’s campaign sees it differently.

“We are looking at the question of a 5th place finish, but all information we’ve gathered is that 5th moves to 4th,” Sweeney campaign spokesperson Karina Waller said in a text message.

The dispute is likely to go to court, and Fenumiai’s letter invited a lawsuit.

“Any party that disagrees with these decisions should file suit immediately,” it said.

The state’s new election law, adopted by voters in 2020 as Ballot Measure 2, doesn’t specifically describe this situation — a special election for U.S. House in which one of the four nominees drops out.

The father of Ballot Measure 2, attorney Scott Kendall, told the Alaska Beacon that the 64-day rule applies only to regular elections, not special elections.

Alaska Public Media

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