Alaska: Nageak’s lawsuit against state election officials to proceed | The Alaska Journal of Commerce

The case of Rep. Ben Nageak, D-Barrow, vs. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Director of Elections Josie Bahnke will start on Tuesday, Sept. 27. Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi has ruled that the trial must begin next week and end no later than Oct. 3 so that the Division of Elections will have proper time to mail ballots ahead of the general election. Attorney Stacey Stone, representing Nageak, requested additional time to put together a comprehensive witness list, as rural witnesses must be both properly vetted and logistically organized, continue the discovery process, and issue the necessary subpoenas. “The reality is that absentee voting starts on Oct. 24,” countered Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh. “That means ballots need to be mailed out by Oct. 17 which means we probably need a decision by the Supreme Court by Oct. 14.” In order for that to happen however, Guidi would need to make a decision by Oct. 7.

Alaska: The painstaking work of translating Alaska’s ballot into Native languages | Alaska Dispatch News

After hours in the state elections office in Midtown Anchorage last month, two women stared at a computer screen, murmuring words in Yup’ik. They were struggling over the translation for the phrase “risk-adjusted return.” One of the women, Lorina Warren, looked across the table at Indra Arriaga, language assistance compliance manager for the Division of Elections. “Tell…

Alaska: Newly enacted Native language voting provisions rolled out at polls in August primary | Alaska Dispatch News

Before choosing a primary ballot at a polling place set up at the Manokotak City Office this week, Mike Toyukak glanced at two sample ballots offering Yup’ik translations of the English ballots available for voters to chose from. From signing for his ballot to depositing it into the ballot box, it only took Toyukak a few minutes to vote. But the scenario he encountered — the Yup’ik language sample ballots, an interpreter on hand had he needed one, and even a Yup’ik glossary of terms available for the poll workers to refer to — were years in the making. And Toyukak was at the heart of the change. His first language was Yup’ik. And for years, when he went to vote he was confronted with an English ballot, and difficulty understanding all the nuances it contained. Although he knows some English, he also knew that others were having an even more difficult time with the language.

Alaska: Reeling From Effects of Climate Change, Alaskan Village Votes to Relocate | The New York Times

Residents of a small Alaskan village voted this week to relocate their entire community from a barrier island that has been steadily disappearing because of erosion and flooding attributed to climate change. In the unofficial results of an election on Tuesday in the village, Shishmaref, residents voted 89 to 78 to leave. The plan would move the village, which is 120 miles north of Nome, to one of two sites on the mainland about five miles away, officials said. But the village needs an estimated $180 million from a patchwork of sources to complete the move, according to a 2004 estimate. Shishmaref is an Inupiat community of about 600 people on Sarichef, an island north of the Bering Strait that is about one-quarter mile wide and two and a half miles long. It has been grappling for decades with the loss of buildings and infrastructure caused by storm surges, and it has shrunk over the past 40 years — more than 200 feet of the shore has been eaten away since 1969, according to a relocation study published in February.

Alaska: Alaska Prompts Convention Hiccup By Requesting A Vote Recount | TPM

The Republican officials trying to keep the drama-filled GOP convention on track just can’t catch a break. After powering through the delegate vote count that made Donald Trump the official GOP nominee with relatively little disruption from the Never Trump crowd, the proceedings of Tuesday evening’s convention programming were briefly interrupted because the Alaska delegation request a recount of its votes. “We were never told that you were going to miscount our votes tonight,” a representative from the delegation said from the stage’s microphone, according to The Atlantic. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chair of the convention, asked the delegate if he was requesting a recount, which the delegate confirmed he was.

Alaska: Lost in translation: The difficult but necessary process of creating indigenous language ballots | KTOO

The state’s Division of Elections is required to translate ballots and create an elections glossary in six dialects of Yup’ik and also Gwich’in. Those are the terms of a lawsuit settled last year by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. But that process isn’t easy. Think about these words — “candidates for elected office are running for a seat.” What image pops in your head? Retired Yup’ik professor Oscar Alexie says not a political event. “I’m thinking of people like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and all those guys at the race line waiting for someone to say ‘Go!’” And whoever gets to the chair first is the boss, Alexie said.

Alaska: Challenges and joys of crafting a Yu’pik ballot | Alaska Public Media

The state’s Division of Elections is required to translate ballots and create an elections glossary in six dialects of Yu’pik and also Gwich’in. Those are the terms of a lawsuit settled last year by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. But as Alaska Public Media’s Anne Hillman learned – that process isn’t easy. Think about these words – candidates for elected office are running for a seat. What image pops in your head? Retired Yup’ik professor Oscar Alexie says not a political event. “I’m thinking of people like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and all those guys at the race line waiting for someone to say ‘Go!’” And whomever gets to the chair first is the boss, Alexie said. Alexie is part of the eight-person team that’s trying to translate election materials into Yup’ik. He said it’s not easy because the words need to mean something in Yup’ik, not just be literal translations from the English. So one word in English – like candidate – ends up being a phrase in Yup’ik. But technical ballot language in English is dense. Something like “candidate statement” isn’t straightforward.

Alaska: Judge challenges attorneys as campaign finance trial wraps up | Alaska Dispatch News

A weeklong trial in a lawsuit challenging the state’s campaign contribution limits came to a close Tuesday, with U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess asking probing questions of attorneys defending the state’s limits on nonresident contributions and expressing some concern limits set at least a decade ago haven’t risen with inflation. Kevin Clarkson, attorney for the plaintiffs who say their free-speech rights are hurt by the donation caps, said in his closing arguments the state never overcame a fundamental hurdle, proving the $500 maximum a person can give to a candidate per year is the proper amount to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption, as the law intends. Proving why that number is correct is the state’s “first step,” but the state never met that obligation, he asserted. The constitutional challenge — brought in November by Alaska Republican Party District 18, Alaskans Aaron Downing and Jim Crawford and Wisconsin resident David Thompson — challenges the $500 limit and three other contribution caps. The Alaska Public Offices Commission is named as the defendant.

Alaska: Judge tosses Alaska Democrats’ lawsuit | Juneau Empire

A Juneau Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Alaska Democratic Party against the state of Alaska for its refusal to allow independents to appear on the party’s fall primary ballot. In his decision, Judge Louis James Menendez wrote that the state’s motion to dismiss the case was appropriate because the Alaska Democratic Party has itself not yet approved rules allowing independents onto the party ballot. That decision will not be made until the party’s statewide convention in May, when delegates will be asked to change the party’s rules.

Alaska: First oral arguments as GOP supporters attempt to loosen campaign donation limits | Alaska Dispatch

A federal judge on Monday heard the first arguments in a case that challenges the state’s limits on donations to political candidates and groups, setting the stage for a seven-day trial set to begin later this month. The lawsuit against the state — brought by three supporters of Republican candidates and an Anchorage Republican district committee — has its roots in recent federal cases that have equated free speech with campaign contributions. The Alaska Republican Party District 18 in Anchorage and the three individual plaintiffs want U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess to strike down annual limits on contributions from political parties and nonresidents, as well as the $500 annual limit that individuals can make to candidates and to groups other than political parties. The trial is set to begin April 25 in Anchorage.

Alaska: PFD voter registration initiative approved, will appear on August ballot | KTVA

A ballot initiative that would register Alaskans who qualify for the Permanent Fund dividend to vote has been approved for the primary ballot in April. Alaska Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke announced Monday the signature petitions were properly filed. During the signing of the certification documents with Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott Monday morning, she noted that the initiative would be the only one on the ballot during the primary election on Aug. 16.

Alaska: Democrats want to embrace candidates who won’t wear label | Alaska Public Media

The Alaska Democratic Party wants to allow non-partisan candidates to run on the Democratic ballot in Primary Elections, and the party has filed a legal challenge to a state law that restricts the primary ballot to members only. Some Republicans allege the Democrats are trying to pull a fast one. State Democratic Party chair Casey Steinau says Democrats want to open their ballot to be more inclusive, to welcome candidates who don’t want to wear labels. “This allows folks who are clearly aligned with us, that have our values to — who don’t necessarily want to be pigeonholed into one political party, which is where I think Alaskans are these days — and it allows them to go ahead and compete for our support,” she said.

Alaska: Mallott rejects Democrats’ primary change | Associated Press

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott on Wednesday declined a request by Alaska Democrats to allow candidates not affiliated with a political party to run in the Democratic primary. State law requires a candidate seeking a party’s nomination to be a registered voter of that party. State party chair Casey Steinau has said that Democrats believe the law is unconstitutional and unenforceable based on research done by attorneys for the party. But Mallott, in a letter to Steinau, said it’s up to a court to decide whether a law is ultimately constitutional. The state intends to follow the law as it stands, said Mallott, who oversees elections in the state and said he consulted with Alaska’s Department of Law.

Alaska: Democrats want to allow independents in party primary | Associated Press

Alaska Democratic party leaders have approved allowing candidates not affiliated with a political party to run in the Democratic primary. In a letter to state election officials provided by the party late Tuesday afternoon, party chair Casey Steinau said that Democrats believe a state law requiring a candidate seeking a party’s nomination to be a registered voter of that party to be unconstitutional and unenforceable. A memo prepared for the party by an attorney with a Washington, D.C., firm concluded that a political party’s freedom of association is likely to be found to include the right to allow non-affiliated candidates to seek that party’s nomination and that state law prohibiting that is likely to be held unconstitutional.

Alaska: PFD voter initiative nets needed signatures for ballot | Alaska Public Media

A statewide effort to make it easier for people to vote is culminating this week. On Jan. 14, petitioners submitted tens of thousands of required signatures to the Division of Elections to earn the PFD voter registration initiative a spot on a ballot this fall. The campaign began late last year in Anchorage and snowballed to other communities, including Sitka, Ketchikan, Kotzebue, Bethel and Fairbanks. Overall, the PFD voter ballot initiative – a proposal that automatically registers people to vote at the same time they apply for their yearly payouts—has gained support from some 42,000 Alaskans. That’s nearly double the number it needed to make it on a ballot in case some signatures were invalid. Here’s John-Henry Heckendorn, the Anchorage-based campaign manager for the PFD voter initiative. “We’re confident that by overshooting the required mark by so much we’re going to make it onto the ballot.”

Alaska: New online voter registration in place; PFD initiative backers want more | Alaska Dispatch News

With a ballot measure to simplify voter registration ready to move ahead, the Walker administration says its own online effort already is bringing results, signing up hundreds of new Alaska voters in less than two months. Alaska launched its online voter registration system at the end of November with the goal of increasing access to the ballot. Since then, 592 voter registrations have been completed, said Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who oversees the state Division of Elections. The division on Monday announced the new online voter registration system and the hiring of a new language assistant manager for Yup’ik and Gwich’in voters. Also new this year: a connection between voter registration and Permanent Fund dividend applications. Alaskans can click a link to register to vote after they finish their PFD application.

Alaska: Native groups, unions put cash behind effort to link PFD, voter registration | Alaska Dispatch News

The group behind the initiative to merge voter registration with Alaskans’ Permanent Fund dividend applications has pulled in another $45,000 from unions, Alaska Native groups and the campaign committee of Forrest Dunbar — a former candidate for U.S. Congress. In a report filed Monday, the campaign reported donations of $5,000 from Doyon, the Tanana Chiefs Conference and Get Out the Native Vote; $10,000 from the National Education Association; and $5,000 from a political action committee of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Retired Alaska Supreme Court justice Walt Carpeneti gave $250. And Dunbar, who recently announced he was running for Anchorage Assembly, gave $4,500 in funds left over from his federal campaign committee.

Alaska: Trial set in lawsuit challenging campaign contribution limits | Associated Press

A federal judge has set an April trial date in a case that could affect state campaign contributions limits in Alaska. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess said the trial is estimated to take five days. It is scheduled to start April 25, about four months before the state’s primary elections. An Anchorage state Republican party district and others are suing leaders of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, challenging the constitutionality of certain campaign contribution limits.

Alaska: Anchorage-based group works to get voting registration attached to PFD application on 2016 ballot | Newsminer

A group of Alaskans is making its final push in an effort to get an initiative on the state ballot that would allow people to automatically register to vote while signing up for their Permanent Fund Dividend. The group, based in Anchorage, has been gathering signatures throughout the state throughout the fall. They need 28,500 signatures — 10 percent of voter turnout from 2014 — to make the ballot in 2016. The signatures must come from at least three-fourths of the state’s legislative districts. The group must submit its signatures before the start of the 2016 legislative session, which begins Jan. 19. That means the group has a little more than a month to complete its effort. If the group succeeds, the initiative would appear on either the primary election ballot in August or the general election ballot next November.

Alaska: Anchorage Assembly endorses vote-by-mail election in 2017 | Alaska Dispatch News

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to support conducting the 2017 city election by mail, rather than by in-person polling precincts. In a vote-by-mail election, the city will automatically mail ballots to every registered voter in Anchorage, deputy clerk Amanda Moser said in a recent interview. Voters would no longer visit a polling precinct on Election Day to fill out a ballot. Officials have been exploring the change for several years and say it will boost low voter turnout in city elections.

Alaska: GOP supporters file suit to loosen Alaska’s strict campaign donation limits | Alaska Dispatch News

A new lawsuit in federal court seeks to overturn Alaska’s strict limits on donations to political candidates and groups using a pair of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions as precedents. The suit, filed by an Anchorage Republican district and three supporters of Republican candidates, challenges the state’s $500 annual cap on individuals’ donations to candidates, as well as three other contribution limits. If the lawsuit prevails, it could reshape the political landscape for next year’s state legislative elections by allowing donors to spend more money on their favored candidates. A trial is tentatively scheduled for late April before U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess.

Alaska: Group files federal lawsuit challenging Alaska campaign contribution limits | KTUU

The constitutionality of limits on Alaska campaign contributions is challenged in a new federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday. Three individuals and the local chapter of the Alaska Republican Party filed the lawsuit against the executive director and board of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, which enforces state political financing laws. The suit alleges that four aspects of campaign laws violate the U.S Constitution: a $500 limit on individual contributions to a candidate, a $500 limit on individual contributions to a group, the $3,000 limit on out-of-state contributions, and limits on political party contributions.

Alaska: Historic Native Voting Rights Win in Alaska | ICTMN

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and Alaska have jointly announced an agreement that requires the state to provide translation of election materials and ballots into Gwich’in and several Yup’ik dialects. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason, who presided over the lawsuit that resulted in the settlement, also ordered increased bilingual training for election workers, expanded collaboration with Native language experts and tribal councils, meaningful outreach to voters, and additional help for those with limited English-language proficiency. Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, who is of Tlingit heritage, called the agreement “historic.” He said it “will strengthen our election process, so that voters can have the opportunity to understand fully all voting information before they vote.”

Alaska: Campaigns wants to use PFD to register voters | Juneau Empire

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.”

Alaska: State to Provide Voting Pamphlets with Gwich’in and Yup’ik Translations | Alaska Commons

The State of Alaska and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) announced a settlement Thursday of a lawsuit claiming the State failed to provide translations of voting materials in Gwich’in or Yup’ik. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) mandates that “Any registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots,” must be provided in minority languages when five percent of the population speaks limited English. Mike Toyukak of Manakotak, Fred Augustine of Alakanuk, the Native Village of Hooper Bay, the Traditional Village of Togiak, the Arctic Village Council, and the Village of Venetie Council filed suit in 2013. Last September, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that by failing to translate the Official Election Pamphlet into Gwich’in and Yup’ik, the State violates Section 203.

Alaska: Parties reach settlement in Alaska Native voting-rights case | Associated Press

A settlement has been reached between the state and Alaska Native plaintiffs who sued in federal court over the translation of voting materials for voters with limited English proficiency. The proposed settlement filed Tuesday calls for the Alaska lieutenant governor’s office to hire a full-time employee to administer language assistance. Another significant provision in the agreement calls for the official state election pamphlet to include translations, plaintiffs’ attorney Natalie Landreth with the Native American Rights Funds said Thursday. It took the two sides about nine months to work out a settlement, she said. Landreth read a brief letter from one of the plaintiffs, Mike Toyukak of the village of Manokotak, thanking officials for working on resolving the case. “This is really a big deal for us, and we’re very happy that those who did not understand before will now be able to understand the voting ballots,” Landreth quoted Toyukak as writing.

Alaska: PFD voter registration initiative signature gathering approved | Alaska Dispatch News

The state’s Elections Division has issued petition booklets for an initiative that aims to make applications for Permanent Fund dividends double as voter registration forms, clearing the way for signature gathering to begin. It has set an Aug. 22 deadline for the petition booklets to be submitted. The petition sponsors have received training from state elections officials on how to comply with state signature gathering rules since the July certification of the measure by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. The initiative sponsors will now have about a year to collect 28,545 valid signatures, according to elections officials, a task made more complicated by a requirement that minimum numbers of signatures must come from 30 of the state’s 40 House of Representatives districts.

Alaska: PFD voter registration initiative approved for signature gathering | Alaska Dispatch News

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has certified a ballot petition that would link Alaska Permanent Fund dividend applications with voter registrations, which initiative sponsors say could add tens of thousands of Alaskans to voter rolls. But Mallott’s Elections Division is also warning it would cost nearly $1 million to implement and another $300,000 a year to manage. One of the initiative’s sponsors, Tim Kacillas of Anchorage, said despite the upfront cost, there will be ongoing benefits to the state of having more people registered and voting. “It’s originally $500,000 for initial system setup; that’s where the bulk of the money goes,” he said. “I think the people of Alaska will think it’s worthwhile for that price,” he said.

Alaska: Division of Elections director resigns at Lt. Governor’s request | Alaska Public Media

A veteran election official resigned abruptly on Friday at Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s request. The Walker-Mallott administration was Gail Fenumiai’s third as head of the state Division of Elections. Claire Richardson is special assistant to Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. She says they accepted Fenumiai’s resignation on Friday. “There’s nothing personal in the request. The lieutenant governor would like to move in some new directions with the Division of Elections and it was felt that it was time for different leadership.” Fenumiai has been director of elections since 2008, and has 10 years of earlier experience in the division. She didn’t return calls for comment.

Alaska: Mallott switches out election chief as lawsuit, other voting issues loom | Alaska Dispatch News

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott abruptly removed Alaska’s longtime elections chief from office on Friday, saying through an aide that he appreciated her work but also wanted a change in the department, which has been embroiled in a lawsuit over Native voting. Claire Richardson, a special assistant to Mallott, confirmed Monday that he sought the resignation of Gail Fenumiai, who had been with the Division of Elections for 15 of the last 20 years and the department’s director since January 2008. Her last day was Friday, the same day she was asked for her resignation by administrative director Guy Bell, Richardson said. “The lieutenant governor is certainly wishing her well in her future endeavors. This was nothing personal,” she said. Fenumiai was a professional elections official with a long history of service, she said.