Alaska Election Officials Deny “Berniecrats”


The Alaska Division of Elections (DOE) has denied requests from multiple candidates for state office who support Bernie Sanders to be listed on ballots as “Berniecrat” in addition to their given names.

ed cullinane letter

Letter Denying “Berniecrat” Nickname

In a phone conversation this morning, Director of the Alaska Division of Elections Josephine Bahnke said her office denied the requests because the requests didn’t comply with election regulations. She cited AS 15.15.030 (4):

“The director may not include on the ballot, as a part of a candidate’s name, any honorary or assumed title or prefix but may include in the candidate’s name any nickname or familiar form of a proper name of the candidate.”

In a follow-up email, Bahnke said, “In this case, ‘Berniecrat’ is not a familiar form of a proper name of the candidate.”

“Berniecrat” is clearly not a “familiar form of a proper name”, but how exactly does the division of elections determine if whatever term a candidate requests to be listed as is a “nickname?”

Bahnke said there is no statute or state regulation spelling that out.  Instead, DOE relies on a state legal opinion.  Under that opinion, Bahkne said, the process goes like this:

“Does the proposed name clearly confuse or mislead the voter, frustrate voter intent, compromise fairness or neutrality of the ballot, or contain an honorary or assumed title? If yes, reject.  If no, Is the name a proper form of a familiar name and/or a name by which the candidate is generally known in the community? If no, reject.  If yes, does the name advise the voter as to any political position or intended action the candidate may take if elected?  If yes, reject.  If no, accept.”

Ultimately, though, it is a matter of discretion on the part of DOE. Bahnke said, “In this case it just didn’t pass the red-face test.”

Many watchers of Alaska politics will remember that back in 2009 the late Bob Lupo fought unsuccessfully to have his nickname “Joker” included on the Anchorage Mayoral ballot.

It doesn’t appear right now anyone will be fighting the ruling this time around. In her email, Bahnke said, “To date, we have not received any appeals related to the denials for the use of ‘Berniecrat.’

Sorry Bernie people.

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