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Alaska Supreme Court allows parental initiative to stay on ballot

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June 3, 2010

Portal:Ballot Measure Law

JUNEAU, Alaska: The initiative seeking that parents be notified before a minor receives an abortion procedure can stay on the August 24, 2010 primary election ballot, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled on June 2, 2010. The decision comes after a lawsuit was filed by Jeff Feldman, an attorney for Planned Parenthood of Alaska, who are in opposition to the measure. Feldman stated that the lieutenant governor should have not have approved the initiative, citing the measure misleads voters and is unlawful. The case was heard by the Alaska Supreme Court on February 24, 2010.[1][2]

During the week of March 16, 2010, Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner ordered that the language for the ballot measure be rewritten in order to be placed on the ballot. Although Planned Parenthood of Great Northwest and the ACLU of Alaska argued that the language was misleading, and should not be placed on the ballot, Pfiffner only ruled that the language be revised. The decision was then appealed by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Alaska.[3]

In the arguments heard in the appeal on May 20, 2010, Planned Parenthood stated that the petition language was flawed because it did not tell people that doctors would face legal penalties if correct procedures were not followed. The group also stated that the initiative effort should start again from the very beginning because of this, and that the measure should be kept off the ballot.[4]

According to the initiative's sponsors' attorney, Kevin Clarkson, when commenting on keeping the measure off of the ballot, "It would be extremely harsh, it would run counter to the very purpose of Article 11 to allow a failure of a government official, in this case the lieutenant governor and the attorney general, to just defeat the ability of the people to act, to engage in direct legislation."

In the end, the high court ruled that any alleged petition flaws weren't sufficient to take the measure off the ballot and have sponsors start the initiative process from the start.[2]

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