An Alaska Senate race has the potential to once again remain undecided well after the election, and this time the wait could keep control of the Senate up in the air until at least mid-November. December and January runoffs are possible in two other states with Senate races, so it could be even longer before either party can claim a majority of seats in the chamber in the next Congress. Senate Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control. But the reason for the holdup in Alaska is, like the state itself, unique. In the Last Frontier State, the regular delay in races being called is largely a product of two confluent circumstances: close contests and an increased emphasis by campaigns on absentee voting, a get-out-the-vote method pushed to help compensate for the state’s travel and voting complications. The need to encourage absentees is a reality in one of the most topographically challenging states for campaigns in the country. Prop planes are often required for candidates to reach the state’s vast rural areas and even for timely travel between cities close in proximity but separated by mountains or water. And state officials running the election face similar logistical hurdles: All ballots are eventually transported by air to Juneau, a capital only accessible by boat or plane.
Articles about voting issues in Alaska.
The plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the merged campaigns of two Alaska gubernatorial candidates will not appeal a judge’s ruling that an emergency order allowing the ticket was valid, he said Monday. Plaintiff Steve Strait said, however, that state lawmakers should enact a permanent regulation to address a legal “train wreck” — the label used by Superior Court Judge John Suddock in describing a gap in Alaska election statutes. Suddock sided with the state on Friday.
An Alaska Superior Court judge Friday morning denied a complaint brought by a Republican Party official that could have unraveled the “unity” ticket of gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker and his running mate, Byron Mallott. Steve Strait, an Anchorage district chair of the Alaska Republican Party, said he will decide over the weekend whether to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Judge John Suddock said the lieutenant governor and the Division of Elections acted appropriately when they issued an emergency regulation Sept. 2 allowing the merger of the “nonparty” ticket, though primary voters had previously chosen Mallott as the Democratic nominee for governor. In a lengthy explanation of his decision, Suddock said he was constrained by three decades of precedent, including a Supreme Court ruling, attorney general opinions, similar decisions by past lieutenant governors, and numerous Legislatures that had “OK’ed this kind of monkey business after the primary” by not creating a statute to address such situations.
A judge on Friday sided with the state of Alaska and ruled against a lawsuit that challenged the merged campaigns of two candidates in the governor’s race. Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Suddock ruled that an emergency order issued by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell that allowed the merger was valid. The state argued that invalidating the order would leave the November election in shambles and disenfranchise voters, saying more than 2,400 overseas ballots have already been mailed out. “The people of the state of Alaska expect an election,” Suddock said after opposing sides had presented their oral arguments. “They expect to have a choice.” The lawsuit was filed last week by Steve Strait, an Alaska Republican Party district chair. Strait maintained Treadwell erred in his Sept. 2 order, which permitted candidates affected by the merger to officially withdraw from their respective races.
The Alaska gubernatorial election could be derailed and thousands of voters disenfranchised if a lawsuit challenging the merged campaigns of two candidates is successful, state lawyers argue in court documents ahead of oral arguments Friday. ”This court should not lightly order a remedy that will interfere with an ongoing election and disenfranchise Alaska’s voters,” Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh, representing the defendants, wrote in documents filed in the lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and elections director Gail Fenumiai. The filing says more than 2,400 overseas ballots have already been mailed out. The lawsuit filed last week by an Alaska Republican Party district chair, Steve Strait, challenges an emergency ruling that allowed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott to join his campaign with now-independent candidate Bill Walker and run as Walker’s lieutenant governor.
A federal judge directed Alaska election officials on Monday to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act by expanding their language outreach to Yup’ik- and Gwich’in-speaking villagers for the November election U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason told state officials they must provide written translations of most of the important election materials they give to English-speaking voters, including candidate statements in the official election pamphlet mailed to every voter in Alaska. She also directed them to increase six-fold the number of hours that bilingual outreach workers are paid to help Yup’ik and Gwich’in speakers understand the ballot and their right to vote. She ordered state officials to provide material in Yup’ik dialects when Central Yup’ik would be misunderstood in the Dillingham and Wade Hampton census areas.
A federal judge on Monday ordered the state to take additional steps to provide voting materials to Alaska Native voters with limited English for the upcoming election. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ordered the state to distribute translated announcements to be read on radio that include information on early voting, races and initiatives on the November ballot. The state, among other things, must make available on its website translations of election material in Yup’ik dialects and provide to outreach workers translations of such things as candidate statements, initiative summaries and pro and con statements on the initiatives. The Division of Elections also is to provide translations to the plaintiffs in the case to get their input.
Attorneys have responded to the State of Alaska’s proposed plan to address a state Supreme Court order to improve translation of voting materials in Native languages before November 4th Elections. In a 30-page document, Attorneys with the Native American Rights Fund, representing Yup’ik and Gwich’in Alaska Native voters, asked for five main changes before election day. NARF Attorney Natalie Landreth says the most important request is that the state have bilingual help for Native language voters in every community where it’s needed. Voters at the Lower Kuskokwim School District choosing primary election ballots on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014. “You have to have a bilingual person in place in each place in each village in advance of the election and on election day, that’s number one. Number two: you have to have written translations in Yup’ik of the ballot measures, the pro and con statements, the neutral summaries and the complicated pre-election information like what early voting is, how to get registered,” said Landreth.
The state of Alaska is proposing several changes in how they deliver voting information to Alaska Natives whose first language is Yup’ik or Gwich’in. The state is offering the changes after a federal judge issued a decision in a voting rights lawsuit last week. U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason ordered the state to better help voters who speak Yup’ik and Gwich’in understand their ballots. Elizabeth Bakalar is the lead attorney for the state on the case. She says that the state is focused on three areas: “That voters need better information ahead of the election that language assistance is available, that outreach workers need to be better prepared to provide language assistance voters especially prior to election day and to better address certain dialectical differences. So those are the three areas which the interim remedies we’re proposing are meant to target and certainly any long term remedies would probably target those areas as well.” Bakalar explains, the state is preparing different versions of ballot language to send to tribal councils and outreach workers to reflect different dialects. She says they’re looking for feedback from speakers.
The state of Alaska says it will do a better job offering language assistance to its native population following a federal court ruling this week. The ruling marks the end of a legal campaign that began a year ago when the state was sued by four tribes and two native voters for failing to provide sufficient ballot language assistance. After a nine-day trial earlier this summer, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason on Wednesday issued her ruling, asking the state to submit a proposal by Friday for changes that could be implemented before the November election. “This case boils down to one issue,” Natalie Landreth, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, which filed the lawsuit with two national law firms, said in a statement following the ruling. “English speakers receive a 100-page Official Election Pamphlet before every election and Yup’ik speaking voters have been receiving three things: the date of the election, the time of the election, and a notice that language assistance will be available at the poll. That’s it. That is a very clear violation of the law, and it has to change, now.”