The House chambers are seen on Friday, May 13, 2022, at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Four Anchorage residents have sued the Alaska Division of Elections, saying Democratic state House candidate Jennie Armstrong is ineligible to run for office.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Anchorage Superior Court, claims that a social media post and fishing licenses prove Armstrong did not live in Alaska for three years before registering on June 1 as a candidate for office. Alaska’s constitution requires a legislator to live in Alaska for three years before filing to run for office.
The four plaintiffs are all registered Republicans, and public records show three have donated financially to Liz Vazquez, a Republican and an Armstrong opponent in the Nov. 8 general election.
Armstrong applied to intervene in the case after it was filed.
“The deadline for residency challenges passed over four months ago. Sadly, the timing of this lawsuit makes clear that it is intended to confuse voters and disrupt the Armstrong campaign. It won’t work,” said Armstrong’s campaign manager, Arielle Wiggin.
Wiggin said the campaign has hired Scott Kendall, a politically active attorney, to represent it in court.
The case has not yet been listed in Courtview, Alaska’s online database of court records, but the initial complaint was confirmed by Stacey Stone, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
The suit was first noted online by Jeff Landfield, an Anchorage political writer who was also the first to raise public concerns about Armstrong’s eligibility.
After Landfield’s initial writing, the Alaska Division of Elections said it had no plans to investigate Armstrong’s eligibility and that its initial certification of her candidacy was based upon information Armstrong provided when she registered.
The plaintiffs are asking a judge to issue an injunction preventing the Division of Elections from certifying Armstrong as the winner, if she receives more votes than the other three candidates in the general election.
Armstrong finished first in the state’s Aug. 16 primary and has been seen as the frontrunner in the district.
Unusually, the suit does not ask for a decision before the election. Instead, citing precedent in a lawsuit against Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, plaintiffs say that if Armstrong is ineligible, ranked choice voting would allow the Division of Elections to award the seat to the No. 2 finisher.
Armstrong was not immediately available for comment Friday afternoon but has repeatedly said that she has lived in Alaska since May 2019, citing flight records that show she arrived in the state on May 10 of that year.
“This suit will eventually be resolved, confirming that Jennie Armstrong was properly certified as an eligible candidate for House District 16. And in the meantime, Jennie will stay focused on the reasons she’s running: to protect our economy, to properly fund education, and to promote the interests and well-being of the residents of District 16,” Wiggin said.
Plaintiffs argue that by listing Louisiana as her residence on nonresident fishing license applications after that date, Armstrong failed to demonstrate that she had left her residency in Louisiana.
State law and prior precedent set by the Alaska Supreme Court has established that residency is established by an “act of removal joined with the intent to remain in another place.”
Friday’s lawsuit claims that by listing Louisiana as her residence, Armstrong failed to make that act of removal, even if she was in Alaska.
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly listed Armstrong as a defendant. She has applied to intervene.
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