Come next election, Alaskans may be able to register to vote as late as Election Day under bills introduced in the Senate and House that call for elimination of the current 30-day pre-election voter cutoff. Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, ran for lieutenant governor last year and discussed voting issues and problems with people all over the state, she said. “The biggest issue people had was access to voting and making it easier,” she said. “We have really low rates in our state.” McGuire’s bill, Senate Bill 93, and a companion bill, House Bill 95, would allow Alaskans to register and vote on the same day. Now, they must have been registered a month before an election to cast a ballot.
Articles about voting issues in Alaska.
A novel unity ticket featuring independent Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott has defeated Republican Gov. Sean Parnell of Alaska in an election so excruciatingly close that its outcome was not known until 10 days after the polls closed. As of late Friday, Alaska elections officials said Walker and Mallott’s ticket received 47.9% of the vote to 46% for the incumbent Parnell. That amounted to a margin of less than 4,700 votes out of almost 270,000 cast. The Associated Press called the race late Friday. The campaign itself was unusual: Mallott had won the Democratic nomination earlier this year, but he and Walker deduced that a three-person race would be won by Parnell, so the two formed a unity ticket.
Election watchdog groups are worried about the role electronically submitted ballots in Alaska might play in the state’s two tight federal elections. Ballots returned online are vulnerable to cyberattacks and lack a proper paper trail, said government accountability advocate Common Cause and election oversight group Verified Voting. Alaska’s gubernatorial and Senate races have both dragged on long after Election Day, with opponents split by narrow margins. Early Wednesday, The Associated Press declared former Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan (R) the winner over incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), even though 30,000 ballots remain uncounted. Begich has yet to concede. Former Valdez, Alaska, Mayor Bill Walker (I) maintains a thin lead over incumbent Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R), although the race remains too close to call. If either race “is to be determined by ballots sent over the Internet, its legitimacy is in doubt,” said Verified Voting President Pamela Smith.
Alaska will begin counting more than 53,000 absentee and questioned ballots on Tuesday in an effort to resolve the state’s unsettled contests for the Senate and for governor. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich trailed Republican challenger Dan Sullivan by about 8,100 votes after Election Night. Begich is banking on the uncounted votes after waging an aggressive ground game in rural Alaska. The outcome of the new round of vote-counting won’t change the balance of the Senate. Republicans gained seven seats in last week’s election, more than enough to grab the Senate majority for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s presidency. The limbo between Election Night and the outcome of the new count created a vacuum the candidates’ spokesmen sought to fill. “Every Alaskan deserves to have their vote counted, and past experience indicates that counting these votes will favor Begich and draw this race closer,” Begich’s spokesman, Max Croes, said in an email Monday to The Associated Press. Begich has returned to Washington, D.C., for the lame duck session.
The number of uncounted votes in Alaska’s tightly fought U.S. Senate race grew by 21,000 between Wednesday and Friday — and more than 5,000 of those were votes that hadn’t been predicted in early accounts of the number of ballots outstanding. After election night on Tuesday, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich trailed Republican challenger Dan Sullivan by 8,000 votes, or 3.6 percent, and both campaigns have been closely watching as state elections officials collect additional ballots cast by mail, or at more than 200 so-called “absentee in-person voting locations” around the state, where people could vote early. More than 40,000 ballots will likely be counted starting Tuesday, though the number will probably climb even more before then. To win, Begich would have to reverse election night trends and win a substantial majority — though his allies have pointed out that in the count following Election Day in 2008, Begich overcame a 3,000 vote deficit to Republican Ted Stevens and ultimately won by 4,000 votes. The spike between Wednesday and Friday was a reflection of state elections officials’ new accounting for more than 13,000 provisional ballots, 2,200 absentee ballots submitted by fax, mail or email, and some 5,200 ballots cast early at the in-person absentee voting locations across the state.
With a few candidates up and down the ticket unsure whether they won or lost, a lot of Alaskans are looking to the thousands of ballots that remain uncounted. Division of Elections chief Gail Fenumiai says it’s too early to say exactly how many ballots are outstanding. “Right now we have, in the offices within the state, 23,608 absentee and early votes that are eligible to be counted,” said at mid-day today. They are from voters who live throughout the state, not in any particular district. “The majority of them are from non-rural areas of the state, meaning Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, the Mat-Su area,” she said. Those are, if you will, the known unknowns. But there are thousands of other kinds of ballots to be added to the total. It’s not clear how many are in these other categories.
Some Americans who lined up at the ballot boxes on Tuesday may have wished for the convenience of online voting. But cybersecurity experts continue to argue that such systems would be vulnerable to vote tampering — warnings that did not stop Alaska from allowing voters to cast electronic ballots in a major election that had both a Senate seat and the governorship up for grabs. There was no evidence of tampering during the first use of Alaska’s online voting system in 2012. But cybersecurity experts have gone on the record as saying that hackers could easily compromise or alter online voting results without being detected. Alaska’s own election site includes a disclaimer about votes cast through online voting or by fax. “When returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waiving your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur,” according to Alaska’s Division of Elections website. Alaskans can vote online by filling out an electronic ballot through a web-based interface, saving the file as a PDF and then transmitting the ballot to their county elections department. But cybersecurity experts told The Intercept that Alaska’s online voting system — developed by Scytl, a Spanish-based company — could be compromised by hackers from anywhere in the world. One expert’s team spent just a day to figure out how to remotely change the results on supposedly locked PDFs without being detected.
Alaska: Hackers Could Decide Who Controls Congress Thanks to Alaska’s Terrible Internet Ballots | The Intercept
When Alaska voters go to the polls tomorrow to help decide whether the U.S. Senate will remain in Democratic control, thousands will do so electronically, using Alaska’s first-in-the-nation internet voting system. And according to the internet security experts, including the former top cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, that system is a security nightmare that threatens to put control of the U.S. Congress in the hands of foreign or domestic hackers. Any registered Alaska voter can obtain an electronic ballot, mark it on their computers using a web-based interface, save the ballot as a PDF, and return it to their county elections department through what the state calls “a dedicated secure data center behind a layer of redundant firewalls under constant physical and application monitoring to ensure the security of the system, voter privacy, and election integrity.” That sounds great, but even the state acknowledges in an online disclaimer that things could go awry, warning that “when returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waving [sic] your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur.”
The review of absentee and questioned ballots cast in Tuesday’s municipal election revealed a general sense of confusion among many Juneau voters. City and election officials tallied 1,447 additional ballots during a public review Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Chambers. The certified official results will be announced Oct. 14, after the remaining mail-in ballots trickle in. Election officials noted that counting machines continually rejected “over-voted” ballots in which too many candidates were chosen in a particular race. These errors disqualified that race on those ballots, though the rest of the correctly completed votes on the erroneous ballots were counted.
Translators are scrambling this week to meet a Friday deadline ordered by a federal judge to provide outreach and poll workers with election materials and voting information that have been translated into Yup’ik or Gwich’in. Gwich’in translators Allan Hayton and Marilyn Savage in Fairbanks are finding the work challenging, KUAC reported. “Some of it is very technical language, legal jargon,” Hayton said. But Hayton and Savage are up to the task, having translated other materials, including Shakespeare, according to Hayton. “Marilyn and I worked last year translating King Lear into Gwich’in, so we’re used to difficult challenges but we’re happy to do this.”