By KIM JARRETT
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – The Alaska Supreme Court will decide if a fifth-place candidate can be on the ballot for an Aug. 16 special election after one of the top four candidates exited the race.
The results certified on Friday show former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the lead with 27% of the vote, followed by Republican Nick Begich with 19.1% of the vote. Independent Al Gross was third with 12.6% of the vote, followed by Democrat Mary Peltola with 10% of the vote. Tara Sweeney finished in fifth place with 5.92%.
Mr. Gross dropped out earlier this week, but officials with the Alaska Division of Elections said ranked choice voting laws prohibit fifth-place winner Tara Sweeney from appearing on the ballot.
“Because this withdrawal occurred less than 64 days before the election, Alaska law does not permit the fifth place candidate to advance,” said Gail Fenumiai, director of the division of the elections, in a letter to Mr. Begich sent to the media by the elections office.
Three voters sued to get Ms. Sweeney on the ballot. A superior court judge sided with the state Friday. The voters are appealing the case to the Alaska Supreme Court.
Elections officials must know by noon on Tuesday which names will be printed on the Aug. 16 ballot, according to the elections division.
Forty-eight candidates qualified for the election, which was held by mail. Of the state’s 587,174 registered voters, 27.6%, or 161,773, voters cast a ballot, according to the unofficial results.