Group Asks Court to Block Alaska Ballots

Backers of an initiative to change the way U.S. Senate vacancies are filled in Alaska on Monday asked a judge to block printing and distribution of the Nov. 2 ballots, contending the state's summary of the measure is misleading.

The Trust the People Initiative Committee (search) is seeking a temporary restraining order and an injunction.

Currently, the governor can appoint a replacement to a vacant Senate seat. The initiative would abolish appointments and require a special election be held in all cases except when the vacancy occurs within 60 days of a primary election.

The drive to get the measure on the ballot was started by three state Democratic lawmakers after Republican Frank Murkowski (search) appointed his daughter Lisa to his Senate seat when he became governor in 2002.

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman (search), head of the Division of Elections, declined to speculate on the effects of a court-ordered injunction, but said: "I would think that most courts would not want to interfere with an ongoing election."

Leman, a Republican, twice removed the measure from the Nov. 2 ballot until ordered by the Alaska Supreme Court to put it back on.

The backers of the initiative say the current language of the title and the four-sentence summary "casts the proposal in a negative light," according to the motion filed Monday.

The ballot summary says, in part: "Under the measure a vacated seat would remain vacant for three to five months, leaving Alaska without full representation in the Senate."

Backers of the initiative say the seat would usually be filled in four months or less. Opponents say a special election would likely take longer.

In addition to blocking the current ballot, the group has asked the judge to order the Division of Elections to change the summary so "that is true, impartial, fair and accurate."

The language is impartial and accurate, Leman said.

"Bias is in the eye of the beholder," he said.