According to the state of Alaska, there are 547,212 Alaskans 18 and older. Only 501,515 are registered to vote. A new campaign hopes to use the Permanent Fund Dividend as a tool to go after the other 45,697. Kimberly Reitmeier is chairwoman of PFD Voter Registration, a group gathering signatures to put a initiative on the 2016 primary election ballot. If organizers get the names and numbers they need, Alaskans will be asked to vote on a proposal that would make registering to vote as easy as registering for the PFD. “Increasing voter registration is our focus,” Reitmeier said. “We want to encourage that civic responsibility of voting.”
Articles about voting issues in Alaska.
The State of Alaska and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) announced a settlement Thursday of a lawsuit claiming the State failed to provide translations of voting materials in Gwich’in or Yup’ik. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) mandates that “Any registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots,” must be provided in minority languages when five percent of the population speaks limited English. Mike Toyukak of Manakotak, Fred Augustine of Alakanuk, the Native Village of Hooper Bay, the Traditional Village of Togiak, the Arctic Village Council, and the Village of Venetie Council filed suit in 2013. Last September, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that by failing to translate the Official Election Pamphlet into Gwich’in and Yup’ik, the State violates Section 203.
A settlement has been reached between the state and Alaska Native plaintiffs who sued in federal court over the translation of voting materials for voters with limited English proficiency. The proposed settlement filed Tuesday calls for the Alaska lieutenant governor’s office to hire a full-time employee to administer language assistance. Another significant provision in the agreement calls for the official state election pamphlet to include translations, plaintiffs’ attorney Natalie Landreth with the Native American Rights Funds said Thursday. It took the two sides about nine months to work out a settlement, she said. Landreth read a brief letter from one of the plaintiffs, Mike Toyukak of the village of Manokotak, thanking officials for working on resolving the case. “This is really a big deal for us, and we’re very happy that those who did not understand before will now be able to understand the voting ballots,” Landreth quoted Toyukak as writing.
The state’s Elections Division has issued petition booklets for an initiative that aims to make applications for Permanent Fund dividends double as voter registration forms, clearing the way for signature gathering to begin. It has set an Aug. 22 deadline for the petition booklets to be submitted. The petition sponsors have received training from state elections officials on how to comply with state signature gathering rules since the July certification of the measure by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. The initiative sponsors will now have about a year to collect 28,545 valid signatures, according to elections officials, a task made more complicated by a requirement that minimum numbers of signatures must come from 30 of the state’s 40 House of Representatives districts.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has certified a ballot petition that would link Alaska Permanent Fund dividend applications with voter registrations, which initiative sponsors say could add tens of thousands of Alaskans to voter rolls. But Mallott’s Elections Division is also warning it would cost nearly $1 million to implement and another $300,000 a year to manage. One of the initiative’s sponsors, Tim Kacillas of Anchorage, said despite the upfront cost, there will be ongoing benefits to the state of having more people registered and voting. “It’s originally $500,000 for initial system setup; that’s where the bulk of the money goes,” he said. “I think the people of Alaska will think it’s worthwhile for that price,” he said.
A veteran election official resigned abruptly on Friday at Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s request. The Walker-Mallott administration was Gail Fenumiai’s third as head of the state Division of Elections. Claire Richardson is special assistant to Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. She says they accepted Fenumiai’s resignation on Friday. “There’s nothing personal in the request. The lieutenant governor would like to move in some new directions with the Division of Elections and it was felt that it was time for different leadership.” Fenumiai has been director of elections since 2008, and has 10 years of earlier experience in the division. She didn’t return calls for comment.
Alaska: Mallott switches out election chief as lawsuit, other voting issues loom | Alaska Dispatch News
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott abruptly removed Alaska’s longtime elections chief from office on Friday, saying through an aide that he appreciated her work but also wanted a change in the department, which has been embroiled in a lawsuit over Native voting. Claire Richardson, a special assistant to Mallott, confirmed Monday that he sought the resignation of Gail Fenumiai, who had been with the Division of Elections for 15 of the last 20 years and the department’s director since January 2008. Her last day was Friday, the same day she was asked for her resignation by administrative director Guy Bell, Richardson said. “The lieutenant governor is certainly wishing her well in her future endeavors. This was nothing personal,” she said. Fenumiai was a professional elections official with a long history of service, she said.
Alaska: Fairbanks Borough Assembly says ‘no’ to mail-in ballots, raises mill rate slightly | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly shot down a proposal to change voting in local elections from the ballot box to the mailbox, but it was clear something needs to be done to boost voter turnout. The assembly voted down an ordinance authored by Assemblyman Lance Roberts to implement vote-by-mail elections in the Fairbanks borough during its meeting Thursday night, with Roberts casting the lone “yes” vote for the measure. The move was, in part, an effort to make voting in municipal elections more convenient in the hopes of boosting voter turnout. Turnout in the last two municipal elections has been historically low at 16.7 percent last year and 14.4 percent in 2013.
Alaska: Anchorage Assembly votes to recertify runoff election after ballots found | Alaska Dispatch News
The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday recertified the mayoral runoff election, taking into account 58 ballots not previously tallied that altered the result by 0.01 percent but did not change the outcome. Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones, who oversees municipal elections, said the bulk of the uncounted ballots were found inside a silver ballot box in a conference room in City Hall. Absentee ballots sent by mail are moved between three rooms — including the conference room — and two floors during the counting process. The day after the Assembly certified the runoff election on May 19, staffers discovered the silver box with the ballots still in their envelopes, she said.
Looking to boost voter turnout, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will consider an ordinance creating a system to vote by mail in borough elections. Assemblymen Lance Roberts and Karl Kassel are backing the ordinance, which will be considered this month and could take effect in 2016, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. “Voter participation within the borough is not the greatest,” Kassel said. “I am hoping that we can get more people to participate by making it easier for them.”