Alaska Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer said he plans to seek an audit of votes cast on a statewide ballot initiative to help put to rest questions some have raised about the “validity” of election results tied to the vote tabulation equipment the state uses. Meyer, who oversees elections in Alaska, said the state is charged with conducting a “fair and honest election, and I believe we’ve done that.” Meyer said the only reason he’s seeking an audit is because “so many people think our Dominion machines are faulty, corrupt and easily manipulated, and I think a lot of this is misinformation that’s coming from the national level.” President Donald Trump and some supporters have sought to sow doubt in the results of his race by attacking Dominion Voting Systems, one of the largest voting technology providers in the U.S., despite no evidence of any serious irregularities. Alaska has used the company for years and got new Dominion machines it used for the first time in this year’s primary election, Meyer said.
Alaska: Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer says no fraud found in 2020 election, but he will ask for an audit to reassure voters | James Brooks/Anchorage Daily News
The elected official in charge of Alaska’s 2020 election said on Wednesday that he has seen no evidence of fraud or illegal activity in this year’s vote. “No, we have not seen anything that looks like fraud or looks weird or looks like an irregularity,” Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer said after the Alaska Division of Elections published final unofficial results. As of 12:14 p.m. Wednesday, 360,684 votes had been counted in Alaska’s 2020 general election. That’s the most votes ever cast in an Alaska election. Election officials will now spend a week double-checking the machine-counted result. Officials expect to certify the result Nov. 25. After that, any losing candidate can request a recount. “We do not accept recount applications until the election has been certified,” said Tiffany Montemayor, the division’s public relations manager. Meyer said on Wednesday that although he cannot request a recount, he intends to take the extraordinary step of asking officials to count all Ballot Measure 2 votes by hand. “It’s never been done,” Meyer said. That hand audit would take place after the results are certified.
Alaska: Votes tip in favor of election-reform measure as state counts thousands more absentee ballots | James Brooks/Anchorage Daily News
A measure seeking to reform Alaska’s election system is on track to become law if current trends hold, after the Alaska Division of Elections counted more than 37,000 additional early, absentee and questioned ballots on Thursday. Elections officials are counting votes daily and publishing updates regularly, with 326,840 of an estimated 361,000 ballots counted by 7 p.m. Thursday. More votes will be counted Friday. No state legislative races changed leaders in Thursday’s count, though several independent and Democratic candidates reduced the leads of challengers who received large shares of votes cast on Election Day. With about 34,000 ballots uncounted, there are only 497 more yes votes on Ballot Measure 2 than no votes, a difference of 0.1%. The measure trailed by 13 percentage points after Election Day, but early and absentee voters have favored it much more than Election Day voters. Alaska counts early, absentee and questioned ballots starting one week after Election Day, and continues counting through Nov. 18. Ballot Measure 2 is a three-part proposal that would put state candidates into a combined primary election for each office, and the top four vote-getters — regardless of party — would advance to a ranked-choice general election. It would also require campaign donors to more fully disclose the source of certain contributions in some races.
Alaska: Here’s why Alaska is the slowest in the nation when it comes to vote counting | Nathaniel Herz/Alaska Public Media
Questions, confusion and speculation about Alaska’s vote-counting process have erupted as state officials wait to count more than 100,000 absentee and other ballots until next week — long after other U.S. states count the vast majority of their votes. Alaska won’t start tallying its remaining ballots — at least 40% of the total — until Tuesday at the earliest, making the state stand out as a gray island in the ubiquitous red and blue electoral vote maps used by national outlets. It’s the only one to have counted less than 60% of its votes, according to figures collected by The New York Times. The timeline is one that Alaska has used before. But in past years, the absentee vote count has typically been an afterthought that affects only the closest of races. This year’s massive, pandemic-driven absentee turnout has changed that. State officials said the wait stems from Alaska’s huge size and complicated logistics: It has polling places in dozens of villages with no road access. Officials said they also need the extra week to finish the time-consuming process of logging the names of each Alaskan who voted on Election Day, then cross-referencing with absentee ballots to make sure no one’s votes are counted twice.
Alaska election officials plan to begin counting more than 155,000 absentee and other ballots Tuesday, a week after Election Day. Some have questioned or criticized the lag, citing a provision of state law that says the counting of reviewed absentee ballots should begin the night of the election. But Maria Bahr, an Alaska Department of Law spokesperson, said absentee ballots are not deemed eligible for counting until voter histories have been run to guard against any possible duplicate votes. The process involves going through precinct registers, which election officials were still receiving Monday, Division of Elections spokesperson Tiffany Montemayor said. She said it can take time for mail to arrive in the vast state. “We’re using every resource that we can to get those things in as fast as we can,” she said. Election officials urged patience ahead of the election, anticipating a large volume of absentee ballots and saying it would take time for results to be known. Some campaigns emphasized absentee and early voting amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Alaska: Emails sent to Deocrats on Tuesday warned them to “vote for Trump or else” | By Nathaniel Herz/Alaska Public Media
Alaskans across the state received emails Tuesday morning warning them to “vote for Trump or else,” in an incident that’s drawn the attention of the FBI and the state Division of Elections. In emails and social media posts, more than a dozen Alaskans reported that messages were sent to people in Anchorage, Soldotna, Kenai, Homer, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg, Ketchikan, Bristol Bay, Denali Park, Palmer and the Fairbanks area. News reports from Florida indicated that the same messages were sent to at least 183 voters there.In a copy of the email shared by Anchorage resident Kane Stanton, the sender told Stanton that “we are in possession of all your information (email, address, telephone).” “You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure,” said the message to Stanton, a 36-year-old hardware store manager. “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply.”
Alaska: Lawsuit says automatically mailing absentee ballot applications only to those 65 and older is unconstitutional | Andrew Kitchenman/Alaska Public Media
A lawsuit over the state’s decision to automatically send absentee ballot applications only to those 65 and older is headed to federal court. The lawsuit alleges that the action unconstitutionally discriminates against younger voters. Anchorage lawyer Scott Kendall filed the lawsuit on behalf of several plaintiffs. “Our lawsuit’s very simple: You want to help people to vote absentee? We applaud it. Help all eligible vote absentee in the same way,” he said. “And don’t discriminate in an unconstitutional fashion.” Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer announced in June that the state would be sending requests to vote by mail to all Alaskans 65 and older. He cited the increased risk that older people face for complications from COVID-19. The lawsuit was filed by the Disability Law Center of Alaska, Native Peoples Action Community Fund, Alaska Public Interest Research Group and two residents. The lawsuit said limiting who automatically receives the applications violates the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says the rights of citizens 18 and older to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of age. And the lawsuit said that word “abridged” is key — and that it means some voters can’t have a better opportunity to vote than others. Kendall said the age cutoff is arbitrary.
Alaska: State plans to mail absentee ballot applications to seniors, prompting calls to send them to all Alaska voters | Andrew Kitchenman/Alaska Public Media
Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer has announced a plan to mail absentee ballot applications to Alaskans ages 65 and older. Some lawmakers and voting advocates are concerned that this would create unequal access to those who don’t automatically get ballot applications. During an online town hall on Thursday, Meyer described why the Division of Elections will be mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters who are 65 and older: They have a greater risk of getting COVID-19. “That is a very vulnerable group,” said Meyer, a Republican. Meyer said the state Division of Elections is hearing it directly from seniors who have worked at the polls in the past. “A lot of these people right now are reluctant to commit, because they’re worried about the virus, or the pandemic,” he said. “And they should be, and if they’re not comfortable, we don’t want them to come out.” Meyer said the state is encouraging voters to request absentee ballots or to vote early to reduce the lines on election day. Some think the state should go further, and send the applications to all registered voters.
Alaska: Lieutenant governor rules out by-mail elections for Alaska’s August primary | James Brooks/Anchorage Daily News
The state of Alaska will keep in-person polling places open during its Aug. 18 primary election, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer said Friday. That announcement bucks the trend set by other West Coast states. A week ago, California said it would conduct its elections entirely by mail this year in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Oregon and Washington already have successful by-mail election programs, and Hawaii’s was already set to begin this year. “We’ve determined that the best way to go is to go with our current process, but with some modifications,” Meyer said. He said he has not yet determined the status of the November general election. “I’m thinking primary, just because nobody knows what the virus will look like in early November,” he said. Under the Alaska Constitution, the lieutenant governor is the top official in charge of the state’s elections. Meyer said poll workers will be provided with protective equipment, and Alaskans who vote in person will be given a mask and latex gloves if they do not have them when they come to a polling station.
Alaska: Emergency law may require Alaskans to vote by mail in August election | James Brooks/Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska Senate approved a proposal Tuesday that would give the lieutenant governor the power to order statewide elections by mail if warranted by the spread of COVID-19. That power was among several the Senate sought to give Alaska’s executive branch as it unanimously approved a sweeping emergency bill intended to address the health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would extend the governor’s declaration of a public health emergency through Sept. 1 and grant him special powers. The bill passed unanimously by the Senate allows by-mail elections only for the August statewide primary and any special election before Sept. 1, such as the proposed recall of Gov. Mike Dunleavy. If the Legislature were to extend the public health emergency through November, the lieutenant governor would have the power to order the November general election to be conducted by mail, also. Anchorage conducts municipal elections by mail and the Alaska Democratic Party is holding a by-mail election for president. The state does not universally conduct elections by mail, although tens of thousands of absentee ballots are cast each election by mail.
The state of Alaska is replacing the voting machines used in Fairbanks and elsewhere starting with the August 2020 state primary election, according to state and borough elections officials. That means Tuesday’s election was the last regular election for the AccuVote machines that have been used here for the past 20 years. The new machines are ImageCast Precinct ballot counters, or ICPs. The voter experience will not change much, officials said. People will continue to vote privately in a booth and then feed their ballot into a machine that tabulates the votes. The process will take a few seconds longer because the new technology captures an image of each ballot, officials said. The city of Valdez has been using the ICP machines for a few years. The clerk said they work well. “We love it. My voters love it. I haven’t had any problems with their equipment at all,” Valdez City Clerk Sheri Pierce said. The machines are made by Dominion Voting Systems, the same company that manufactured the AccuVote machines.
All three parties filed briefs and objections last Friday to a ruling on the lawsuit holding up Alaska’s House District 1 election. Two months after election day, the Alaska Supreme Court is scheduled to hear each party argue their points at an oral hearing this Friday morning, Jan. 4. In the meantime, the state House is at a standstill, unable to elect a speaker until a majority is decided. The careful, persnickety points each party argues can be fascinating, or frustrating. Half the voters in this downtown Fairbanks district voted for each side. The race was certified as a tie between Democrat Kathryn Dodge and Republican Bart LeBon, until the Nov. 30 recount put LeBon one vote ahead.
Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer said Monday that he wants an audit of Alaska’s election system following irregularities in the last two primaries. Meyer, a Republican, said the more he’s learning about the Division of Elections, the more he thinks it has done a “pretty good job.” He noted the division found irregularities in a state House primary this year, which the division previously said resulted in 26 suspect ballots being sent to the Department of Law for further review. In that race, the division said it had received seven absentee ballot applications for people that records indicated were dead. The division said it did not send ballots to those requestors. But Meyer said those irregularities and actions by some election workers in a 2016 House primary raised concerns. Questions arose in 2016 around election worker training in certain rural precincts.
The Democrat who lost a recount by one vote in a contested Alaska House race said Wednesday she will challenge the results. Kathryn Dodge said she disagreed with decisions the Division of Elections made on some ballots and will file required paperwork with the Alaska Supreme Court. A recount, held Friday in the Fairbanks race, showed Republican Bart LeBon winning by one vote. During the recount, Dodge picked up another vote, while LeBon picked up two. “This race has gone back and forth, favoring me and my opponent at one time or another during a lengthy process,” Dodge said in a statement. “I believe that it is important to follow the process through so that absolutely no doubt remains about this incredibly close result.”
It’s a sign that every vote does count. A single mystery ballot found on a precinct table on Election Day but not counted then could decide a tied Alaska state House race and thwart Republican efforts to control the chamber and all of state government. The ballot arrived in Juneau last Friday in a secrecy sleeve in a bin with other ballot materials. Officials were investigating its origins and handling before deciding whether to tally it. “People kept calling it close,” Democrat candidate Kathryn Dodge said of the race for the House seat in Fairbanks. “I just didn’t know it was going to be squeaky.” A recount is scheduled for Friday after the race between Dodge and Republican Bart LeBon was previously certified as a tie, at 2,661 votes apiece. The uncounted ballot appears to be marked for Dodge.
A divided federal appeals court panel ruled Tuesday that Alaska’s cap on total contributions that candidates can receive from nonresidents is unconstitutional. However, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld other campaign contribution limits that it said were tailored to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption. The case brought by three individuals and an Alaska Republican Party district challenged elements of state campaign finance law. An attorney for the plaintiffs did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, in a statement, expressed disappointment that the court struck down limits on nonresident contributions but said she was pleased with the rest of the ruling. Her agency said it was reviewing the decision and evaluating next steps.
A coin toss could determine who controls the Alaska House. After the latest count, Republican Bart LeBon and Democrat Kathryn Dodge are tied in the race for the state house seat that represents downtown Fairbanks. There are a couple of steps that have to happen before the race could come down to a coin toss. On Friday, election workers will audit the remaining absentee ballots. If the vote count is still tied after that, then there will be a recount. And if the recount doesn’t change the results, state law mandates that the winner is determined “by lot.” That could take the form of a coin toss or another method of determining a winner by chance.
Some election results from the Alaska primary could be delayed after more than 100,000 voters were given a month to clear up discrepancies with their addresses on voting records. Election officials have not given an exact count of how many did so, but those who didn’t may have to vote a questioned ballot in Tuesday’s primary election. That creates the potential for a delay in election results, especially in tight races, since election officials do not begin counting questioned ballots until a week after the election. “I think the problem is, we don’t know the breadth of the issue right now, so until we know the breadth of the issue, I don’t know that we know the questions to ask,” Stacey Stone, an attorney for the Alaska Republican Party, told The Associated Press. Josie Bahnke, the elections director, was too busy with the election to talk to a reporter, her spokeswoman said.
Early voting for the state’s primary elections starts Monday. However, there is a slight change to the process this year due to the current threat of foreign cyber attacks. The Alaska Division of Elections (DOE) said it is suspending the return of ballots online until security advancements can be made to the state voting system. “We want our voters to feel confident in our elections system and that their votes are secure, which is why we are taking proactive steps to improve how we safeguard their ballots as we head into this year’s elections,” said State Elections Director Josie Bahnke.
The Alaska Division of Elections is in the middle of preparations for this fall’s statewide primary and general elections, but in a meeting Wednesday, the division showed it also has its eyes on 2020. In a meeting of the statewide election policy task force, division officials said they are preparing to acquire new voting equipment even as they consider whether the state should change the way it conducts elections. “It’s kind of two separate projects. It’s equipment replacement and it’s expanding options for ballot access in the future,” Josie Bahnke, the division’s director, said by phone after the meeting. Nothing will change before this year’s Aug. 21 primary or the Nov. 6 general election. Voters will still go to polling stations across the state, they’ll still pick up pens, and they’ll still fill in ovals on paper ballots, then feed those ballots into 20-year-old scanners.
Officials with the state and with Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, hope to avoid any confusion about voting in this year’s primary and general elections. Anchorage has moved to a vote-by-mail system for its local elections. However, the state has not gone that route and will conduct the Aug. 21 primary and Nov. 6 general elections as normal. That typically means voting in person. However, a voter also can request an absentee ballot, which can be returned in the mail — one of the options the state offers for casting ballots. Samantha Miller, communications manager for the state Division of Elections, said officials with the division and municipality planned to meet Monday to discuss the upcoming elections.
The Anchorage League of Women Voters has sent a resolution to the State of Alaska asking it to adopt the mail-in ballot for the General Election. It’s not clear from the resolution if the League wants only Anchorage to be able to conduct the General Election with a mail-in ballot, or if the League expects the entire state to “go postal” in November. The resolution sent to the Division of Elections leaves that open to interpretation and seems to suggest a hybrid of regular and mail-in voting for areas outside of Anchorage. But Anchorage would be all mail-in, as it did in the Municipal Election in April. The wording “supports the State of Alaska utilizing the Municipality of Anchorage new vote-by-mail system beginning with the State of Alaska elections in 2018;” It’s the first public push from mail-in ballot proponents to get the entire state on the system.
As the Alaska Legislature held a Thursday hearing examining the security state’s election system, the Alaska Division of Elections responded to claims that a hacker penetrated its systems on Election Day 2016. Earlier this week, the Anchorage Daily News published details of a previously undisclosed penetration of the division’s computer systems. The division has previously said Alaska was among the 21 states identified by the Department of Homeland Security as targets of Russian vulnerability scans, but it had not discussed an event on the morning of Election Day itself. In that event, exposed by emails first obtained by the ADN (and subsequently obtained by the Associated Press and the Empire), a hacker identified on Twitter as @cyberzeist published pictures of the administrative tools the division uses to share election results with the public.
It wasn’t until Anchorage Daily News reporter Nat Herz caught wind of irregularities in the 2016 General Election that the Division of Elections admitted its computers had been hacked not once, but twice. The second attack was at 5:37 am on Election Day, 2016. In what could be viewed as a cover-up by the Division of Elections, Election Division Director Josie Bahnke said she didn’t disclose it because the attack had no effect on the outcome of the elections. Emails uncovered by Herz support that assertion but do not explain why no report was made to the public in the year and a half that followed, especially after the September, 2017 notification of Russian intrusion into Alaska’s Election Division data, which had also occurred in 2016.
Hackers reportedly breached election systems in a third state, in addition to the already disclosed incidents involving Arizona and Illinois, during the 2016 campaign cycle. On Election Day 2016, a hacker successfully penetrated a server hosting Alaska’s main election website, the Anchorage Daily News reported on Monday night, citing documents obtained through a public records request. The breach is not connected to the previously reported hacking attempt made by Russia-linked hackers to access Alaska’s primary voter registration database. Alaska was one of 21 states that were previously informed by the Department of Homeland Security of similar Russian probing activity on their election systems. Security experts told ADN that, although the newly reported incident was a successful intrusion, the Alaska Division of Elections’ security measures appear to have prevented the attackers from changing content on the server.
A hacker gained unauthorized access in 2016 to the server that hosts Alaska’s public elections website, according to documents released by Gov. Bill Walker’s administration. The documents, obtained by the Anchorage Daily News through a public records request, outline an incident that drew the attention of federal law enforcement but had not been publicly revealed by Alaska election officials. The documents show that Alaska’s elections, like other states’ around the country, face threats from hackers seeking to undermine American democratic institutions. But technology experts both inside and outside state government said that no damage was done — and that the attack actually highlights the resilience of Alaska’s multi-layered cyber-defenses.
Alaska is looking into conducting more of its elections by mail, though it may not completely convert right away. Interest at the state and local government levels increased after the Municipality of Anchorage saw a massive jump in its voter turnout during its April 3 election, which was conducted entirely by mail. However, the cost also reportedly increased, in part due to the printing and mailing of ballots. The Alaska Division of Elections and the Election Policy Work Group plan to meet May 8 and 9 in Anchorage to discuss four possible new vendors for the state’s ballot systems, all of which would involve a hybrid vote-by-mail system, according to a press release issued Thursday.
Anchorage paid slightly more than $1 million to hold the city’s first-ever vote-by-mail election this spring, roughly twice the cost of previous poll-based elections, according to data released by election officials Friday. Elections officials said they weren’t surprised by the higher price tag for the election, an experiment that recorded the highest number of voters in an April city election in city history. But the bigger bill likely won’t go away anytime soon, officials said.”It looks like going forward we will probably have higher election costs doing vote-by-mail than we did the poll-based election,” said Assemblyman Pete Petersen, who chairs the Assembly’s ethics and elections committee.
Alaska: After Anchorage success, state considers whether Alaska is ready for elections by mail | Juneau Empire
By the numbers alone, Anchorage’s first election held by mail has been a smashing success. Election Day was Tuesday, and almost 80,000 votes have already been received by elections officials, setting a record for the most ever cast in an Anchorage muncipal election. State elections officials have already been asking the obvious question: If it worked for Anchorage, could it work for the rest of the state? “I think it very well might,” said Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak and a member of the state’s elections policy task force. “If half of our population is voting by mail and it’s a good experience, why wouldn’t the rest of the state want to do that?”
Alaska elections officials are struggling to put methods in place to translate the state’s election ballot into an array of diverse Alaska Native languages. The effort to respond to a couple of court settlements has already resulted in materials in seven different Yup’ik dialects and some Athabascan Gwich’in languages. The state, expanding its effort beyond the court order, now includes a couple of Inupiaq languages. The effort is the subject of a conference that is going on this week at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. The law requires written ballot materials in minority languages, but one of the big issues is that many Alaska Native speakers never learned to read their Native language.