Alaska Democratic party leaders have approved allowing candidates not affiliated with a political party to run in the Democratic primary. In a letter to state election officials provided by the party late Tuesday afternoon, party chair Casey Steinau said that Democrats believe a state law requiring a candidate seeking a party’s nomination to be a registered voter of that party to be unconstitutional and unenforceable. A memo prepared for the party by an attorney with a Washington, D.C., firm concluded that a political party’s freedom of association is likely to be found to include the right to allow non-affiliated candidates to seek that party’s nomination and that state law prohibiting that is likely to be held unconstitutional.
Unaffiliated candidates currently can run for office by petition and gathering signatures. In a release, Steinau said Democrats want their party to be as inclusive as possible. This also would give voters more choices in the primary, she said.
Party spokesman Jake Hamburg said the party will ask the state Division of Elections to implement the change for this year’s elections. He said it would be a pilot program because party bylaws must be approved every two years and this is year two of a two-year cycle.