ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska judge has ruled that a state lawmaker affiliated with the Oath Keepers may stay on the general election ballot in November even though he’s likely ineligible to hold public office.
But Judge Jack McKenna on Thursday ordered elections officials to delay certifying the result of that particular race until a trial scheduled for December can be held, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
This would allow elections officials to exclude state Rep. David Eastman from the ranked choice voting tabulation process if the trial finds him ineligible, meaning votes cast for him would go to the voters’ next-highest choices.
Former Matanuska-Susitna Assembly member Randall Kowalke filed a lawsuit arguing the Republican lawmaker’s membership in the Oath Keepers runs afoul of the Alaska Constitution’s disloyalty clause. The clause prohibits a person who advocates for the overthrow by force of the U.S. or state government from holding public office in Alaska.
An Oath Keepers leader and other members or associates have been charged with seditious conspiracy related to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Eastman has said he attended a rally in Washington, D.C., for outgoing President Donald Trump. But he has said that he did not participate in the riot. Eastman has not been accused of any crimes.
McKenna said based on the evidence presented, Kowalke would likely succeed in arguing that Eastman is a member of the Oath Keepers, that the group is active and that it is presently seeking to overthrow the U.S. government.
But, McKenna said, “the court emphasizes that this analysis is based upon a limited record and after the testimony of no witnesses, and it does not represent a final decision in this case.”
Instead of ordering Eastman’s name off the ballot, McKenna ordered that election officials delay their certification of election results for House District 27 in Wasilla until after the December trial finishes.
The Division of Elections’ target date for certifying all other election results is Nov. 29, three weeks after the Nov. 8 general election.
Eastman could be seated in the House of Representatives in January if he wins the election and he’s found eligible to hold public office. But if he wins re-election and is ineligible to hold public office, the Alaska Division of Elections would exclude Eastman from the ranked choice voting tabulation process and his votes would go to voters’ next-highest choices.
Kowalke said he was “thrilled” by the compromise and that the judge had found a “really balanced, beautiful solution.”
Eastman’s attorney, Joe Miller, did not respond to calls and a text message seeking a request for comment.