Alaska’s automatic voter registration law went into effect March 1, 2017, making Alaska one of ten states, the fourth state to do so in this year, to enact such legislation. The new bill was introduced through Ballot Measure 1 (15PFVR), which passed in the November 8, 2016 referendum with more than 63% of support from Alaskan voters. The bill also received bipartisan support from Republican leaders Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux as well as Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and former Sen. Mark Begich. Unlike most automatic voter registration states, Alaska does not use DMV records but registers eligible individuals to vote when they sign up for the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). The Permanent Fund was created in 1976 to protect the proceeds of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline by putting at least 25% of the oil money into a dedicated fund. Money from the fund is distributed to eligible Alaskan residents in the form of dividends.
Using the PFD for automatic voter registration improves on the current automatic voter registration model in two significant ways. First, the PFD Automatic Voter Registration will increase voter security. Alaska already employs a strict vetting process through the PFD Division to ensure state residency and prevent fraudulent receipt of PFD benefits. Second, supporters of the bill argue that the PFD Automatic Voter Registration will reach more people than if Alaska were to use DMV records to register voters. Alaska is not the only state to experiment with using different agencies with access to citizen’s data. Rhode Island, which passed its automatic voter registration law in July of 2017, is looking to expand from using DMV data for automatic voter registration to additional state agencies once those agencies can ensure voter eligibility. Essentially, these measures would create a more secure voter registration process by employing vetting procedures from other government agencies and capture a more representative voter base that includes non-drivers.