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.”
Reitmeier is executive director of the ANCSA Regional Association, a joint body of the 12 Alaska Native Regional Corporations. The association has long encouraged campaigns to increase the number of Alaska Native voters, who statistics show are underrepresented in Alaska elections.
In the runup to the 2014 elections, the Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority released figures showing only 57 percent of registered Alaska Native voters turned out to vote in the 2012 general election. That was below the state’s total turnout — 59.6 percent of registered Alaskans voted for president that year.
Alaska Natives aren’t the only ones underrepresented at the polls. Rural voters, young voters, minority voters and lower-class voters show up at polls less than their urban, older, whiter and richer counterparts.