House Bill 3 is strongly opposed by a number of Southeast leaders, including lawmakers and Native officials. It passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. As of today, it was in the Rules Committee, waiting to be scheduled for the House floor. At a recent hearing, Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp President Bill Martin said a photo-ID requirement could keep people from casting ballots.
Alaska: Some Ballots Thrown Out of Anchorage Election Because of Officials’ Error, New results expected Friday | Alaska Public Media
About 100 ballots from the 2013 Municipal Election were rejected during a public canvas held at city hall last night. The canvas, led by the Anchorage Election Commission, lasted several hours. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton was there and has the story. That’s municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler reading the names of a few of the voters whose ballots were rejected during the Public Canvas Thursday evening. More than 100 questioned ballots were rejected. Ballots were rejected for a variety of reasons — because they were cast in a district in which the voter was not registered … because they were postmarked after election day or because the voter who cast the ballot was not registered at all, among others. The 8-person Election Commission conducted the canvas with help from the clerk’s office and the municipal attorney.
Voters in a West Anchorage assembly race might be facing some bubble trouble. Starting Saturday, city officials will begin hand counting more than 7,000 votes cast in last Tuesday’s municipal election after concerns that some ovals marked correctly, according to municipal code, might not have been counted. At least that’s what the campaign of Nick Moe, the 26-year-old write-in candidate, is saying. Moe challenged incumbent Anchorage Assembly chairman Ernie Hall after Hall cut off testimony on a controversial ordinance designed to limit the power labor unions that do work for the city. On Monday, Moe’s campaign requested that Anchorage conduct a hand count of ballots in Assembly District 3, Seat D. That came after the city released a statement saying it would not perform a hand count unless the total number of write-in votes cast were equal to or more than the amount of votes for the leading candidate. The same release noted that there may be “other circumstances” where the votes would be hand-counted.
A bill that would require Alaska’s voters to present photo identification at the polls has been moved out of its final committee of referral in the House of Representatives. HB3, by Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, was advanced from the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The measure now moves to the House Rules Committee, which could schedule it for a vote. It would then go to the Senate if it passes. The bill would stipulate that voters present a form of photo ID or two forms of non-photo identification to election officials. If two officials know the voter, the identification requirement can be waived. Voters who do not meet any of those requirements could still submit a questioned ballot and prove their identity later.
A controversial bill that critics say will make it harder for Alaskans to vote by imposing new identification requirements cleared its first committee Thursday despite objections from the AARP, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks and the American Civil Liberties Union. One of the sponsors, Anchorage Republican Rep. Bob Lynn, said House Bill 3 won’t stop a single person from voting and that some of the critics have misconstrued what he aims to do. “I want to emphasize that the only purpose of HB 3 is simply to help ensure that the person who shows up at the polling place is actually the person who they say they are. And I think that’s basically a pretty good idea,” said Lynn, who chairs the State Affairs Committee that passed the bill out with lukewarm support.
Alaska: Does Alaska have a voter fraud problem? – Despite controversy, voter ID bill takes next step in Alaska Legislature | Alaska Dispatch
A voter ID bill that drew sharp criticism from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on his recent visit to the Alaska Legislature is moving forward, with its sponsor denying the senator’s claims about the bill. Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said his House Bill 3 was the victim of “misinformation” spread by Begich, D-Alaska. “Nothing whatsoever in House Bill 3 prevents anyone from voting if they are registered and motivated to vote,” he said Thursday, while chairing the House State Affairs Committee hearing his bill. Those who don’t have photo ID can present other forms of identification or cast questioned ballots, he said. Stricter voter ID requirements was the focus of Begich’s remarks – and his criticisms were reinforced at a hearing Thursday by Jeffrey Mittman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska and Joy Huntington of the Tanana Chiefs Conference.
Remarks by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in defense of the Voting Rights Act and its special protections for Alaska Natives have come under fire from some in state government, but the first-term Democrat is standing behind them and even gaining some other defenders. Speaking in Juneau earlier this week, Begich criticized a bill in the Alaska Legislature that would require photo identification for voters, as well as the Parnell administration’s court attempts to overturn the civil rights legislation, which gives special protections to Natives and special authority over state elections to the U.S. Department of Justice. Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said Begich misrepresented what his House Bill 3 would do. “Contrary to his assertion before our Legislature, nothing in HB 3 erects any barriers to any voter,” Lynn said. That’s because requiring photo identification is not a barrier, he said. Begich maintained it is, citing some of his own staff members with elderly relatives lacking photo IDs who had for years voted and participated in their villages. They’d be barred from voting without the photo IDs, he said.
Lawmakers have begun deliberations on a bill that would require voters to present photo identification when casting their ballots, but one critic said the geography and ethnic makeup of the state would likely make the law unconstitutional if passed. The House State Affairs Committee began discussing HB3, by Reps. Bob Lynn and Wes Keller, on Thursday. Lynn and Keller serve as the chair and vice-chair of the committee, respectively. “Voting is the very foundation of our Democratic republic,” Lynn said to the committee. “To protect that foundation, voters must be who they say they are.” The bill, as currently drafted, could pose unique practical and constitutional problems for Alaska due to its geography and large native population, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union in Alaska said.
A bill before the Alaska Legislature requiring tough photo ID rules for voting is running into some bipartisan criticism. At a hearing Thursday, the bill sponsored by state Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, came in for both for criticisms and questions that couldn’t be readily answered during a House State Affairs Committee hearing. Efforts to require identification before voting are described by supporters as a way to prevent voter fraud, but are seen by critics as a way to disenfranchise certain voters, especially among the elderly or poor who are less likely to have the necessary ID or documentation to get it, and to those Alaskans living far from the DMV offices where they can obtain photo IDs. “The proposal to require (ID), I think, will disenfranchise many of our people in the villages,” said Myron Nanchang, president of the Association of Village Council Presidents in Bethel, representing 56 Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages in Southwest Alaska. Bill sponsor and committee chairman Lynn denied the bill is intended to suppress traditionally Democratic votes in the dozens of roadless villages dotting the Alaska hinterland. “Absolutely not,” he said. “Everybody’s vote is as good as anybody else’s vote, no matter how they vote, whatever their party.”
It’s not too difficult to get an “I voted” sticker in Alaska. As long as you’re registered, you just have to show a piece of identification at the polls, like a driver’s license or a utility bill. Even if you don’t have ID, you can cast a questioned ballot if an election worker can vouch for you. But two bills lawmakers are considering this year could change that process, in very different ways. The first piece of legislation would create stricter rules for what qualifies as an acceptable ID. It would amend current statute so you would have to show a photo ID, or bring two non-photo IDs like a birth certificate or a government permit. Utility bills wouldn’t be enough anymore. And if you don’t have anything on you, you would now need two election workers to recognize you instead of just one.
The Alaska Redistricting Board wants the state’s highest court to reconsider its decision that requires Alaska’s political boundaries to be redrawn. Attorneys for the board said in a petition filed this week that the court misconstrued or overlooked important facts in the case. They say the court – whose review of the plan is limited, they say, to ensuring the plan is not unreasonable and is constitutional – ignored its duty in failing to answer whether the plan adopted by the board was constitutional.
For a third time, the Alaska Supreme Court emphasized deference to state law while nixing the latest congressional district lines. Alaska’s redistricting board began redrawing congressional districts in 2011 after receiving data from the 2010 U.S. Census. A federal voting rights expert urged the board to draw district boundaries with a focus on creating “effective” Native districts that give Natives the ability to elect candidates of their own choosing. But when this map led to a slew of lawsuits, a Fairbanks superior court judge threw it out and found that four of the proposed House districts unnecessarily deviated from state constitutional requirements.
In an early sign of Republican muscle-flexing in the reordered Alaska Legislature, an Anchorage House member says he plans to revive a dormant bill to require Alaskans to show a photo ID to vote. “It’ll be one of the first bills we hear,” said Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, the chairman of the House State Affairs Committee. Voter photo ID laws in other states were hugely controversial in this fall’s national elections because poor, elderly and minorities are less likely than other voters to have photo identification like a driver license; those same groups are also more likely to vote Democratic. Judges in two states with strict photo ID requirements, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, held off enforcement of those laws, at least for this election.
The ballot counting continued in some legislative races Tuesday, one week after results from most House and Senate districts put Republicans in charge of both houses. Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, emerged with a two-vote lead over political newcomer Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins in his bid for re-election — 4,054 votes to 4,052. Coming into the day, Kreiss-Tomkins, a Democrat from Sitka, held a 43-vote lead. “It makes Six Flags look like a walk in the park,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “It’s been up and down, a rollercoaster.”
Alaska: Natives, tribal groups ask to intervene in Alaska’s challenge of Voting Rights Act | Alaska Dispatch
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) announced that four individuals and four Alaska Native tribal governments asked on Tuesday to join with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a Washington D.C. federal court to defend the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act as challenged by the state of Alaska in the case Alaska v. Holder. Both the individuals and groups will be represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACL) and NARF. Alaska is one of only a few U.S. states that must abide by Section IV and Section V of the Voting Rights Act. Section IV requires that Alaska provide information on all stages of the voting process statewide in all Native languages. Section V asks that the state show that any changes made to the election process will not negatively effect, either unintentionally or intentionally, minority voters.
The Anchorage Assembly is closer to deciding what changes might be in store for next year’s Anchorage city election. In April, several polling places ran out of ballots, sending voters across town to try and find a place to vote. The changes, meant to avoid a similar ballot shortage next year, may involve everything from where extra ballots are stored, to when people can protest a decision from the city’s election commission.
Alaska sued the U.S. claiming the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional because it creates “significant, ongoing administrative burdens” and isn’t warranted based on the state’s voting rights history. Alaska said the law’s preclearance requirement creates uncertainty and delay and “places Alaska’s elections at the mercy of Department of Justice attorneys,” according to a complaint filed today in federal court in Washington. The law intrudes on the state’s sovereignty without evidence Alaska discriminates against minority voters, the complaint alleges. “Section 5’s preclearance requirement denies Alaska the flexibility and autonomy necessary to run its elections in a manner that best accounts for local conditions and circumstances,” the state said in the lawsuit.
The Election Commission will hold the final public canvass session to count ballots from the troubled municipal election in Anchorage Thursday. The ballots were found uncounted in a closet in city hall in July. The room where the 141 missing ballots were stored after they were found in July. After nearly four months, Anchorage officials say they hope the canvass will begin to shut the door on a messy chapter in the city’s election history. The canvass will be followed by final certification of the election, later this month. Anchorage Assembly Chair Ernie Hall says it’s important to make sure voters have access to the canvass. “What happens at the canvass is if you voted in the election and for some reason your vote was disqualified, you’re notified in writing that your ballot is not going to be counted, you have the opportunity to come to come to that canvass and protest your ballot not being counted,” Hall said. “Maybe it’s misunderstanding, you were not in the wrong district, for whatever reason but it gives you a chance to come in personally and say, no you’re wrong. I am an eligible voter and my ballot should count.”
Just when everyone thought the messiest chapter in recent Anchorage voting history was closed, Municipal Leaders confirm that they have found more than 100 uncounted ballots leftover from the flawed April 3 Municipal election. Officials say Clerk’s Office staff discovered the uncounted ballots in a storage closet in the Assembly Conference room on the first floor of City Hall last Wednesday. And where could so many ballots disappear? A staff member who city officials didn’t want to name showed me. “Staff: This is the door to the room inside the Assembly Conference Room. Daysha: And this is basically just a corner room about the size of a large walk-in closet, right? Staff: Correct, with windows. Daysha: Where exactly were the ballots? Staff: On the tables in black bags.”
Nearly 14 weeks after the April Municipal Elections in Anchorage, yet another shoe has dropped in connection with that flawed election day. On Wednesday of this week, 141 sample ballots were discovered in a vault in Anchorage City Hall. As of publication, no one knows if those votes were counted in the election. In a way, the matter is academic. 141 votes will not alter the outcome of any race or ballot-proposition from April 3rd. The closest vote on any matter before the public that day was decided by a margin of at least 3,000 people. But the new revelation does add to the embarrassment of the city. Already, a city clerk — and a deputy city clerk — have lost their jobs over this issue. Today (Saturday) Ernie Hall, the Chairman of the City Assembly, said that preliminary indications are that the latest irregularity may be connected with the confusion of election day.
The Anchorage city clerk’s office relied on an inexperienced deputy to run the trouble-plagued April 3 election, didn’t send enough ballots to polling places and failed to realize the depth of the problem as inevitable shortages began, a new report says. Released Monday, the review by independent investigator Dan Hensley spreads blame for the chaotic election among the outgoing city clerk, the now-fired deputy clerk who handled Election Day details and Assembly members who were not aware of the potential problems. Voter outcry over ballot shortages at more than half of Anchorage precincts spurred the review. “He hit it dead on. I think all of us became complacent over the years,” Assembly chairman Ernie Hall said of the findings. The Anchorage Assembly voted May 8 to pay Hensley, a retired Superior Court judge, up to $35,000 to conduct a month-long investigation. Hensley said he found no evidence of intent by any city or election workers to sway the election or influence voting results. Instead, the report describes a combination of inexperience, hands-off management and short-sighted planning that left printed ballots unused at City Hall even as Anchorage residents scrambled from precinct to precinct looking for a place to vote.
Hands-off management, cost cutting and inexperienced staff — not politics or intentional efforts to influence outcome — were primarily responsible for Anchorage’s embarrassing April municipal election. That’s according to a nine-page report by a former Alaska Superior Court judge hired by Anchorage Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall to investigate what led to ballot shortages at nearly half the city’s polling places, with some residents turned away, unable to cast a vote. The April election, which included votes for mayor and a contentious initiative to add sexual orientation to the city’s equal-rights protections, turned out to be one with higher turnout than expected or planned for by the Municipal Clerk’s office. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan handily won re-election in the vote. Sullivan took his second oath of of office Monday via Skype from Hawaii, where he was vacationing with his family, according to a statement from his office. Proposition 5, which would have made it illegal to discriminate against Anchorage residents because of sexual preference or gender identity, failed.
The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday gave its approval to Alaska’s new redistricting plan, clearing the way for the map to be used in this year’s elections. The decision came in the midst of a federal lawsuit filed to keep state election officials from implementing the plan until the Justice Department weighed in — and a day before a scheduled hearing on the matter before a three-judge panel. The judges dismissed the case late Wednesday afternoon. Attorneys for the plaintiffs had requested the move, saying that after the Justice Department’s decision, the plaintiffs “are accordingly satisfied that the process has now completed as it was meant to under the statute.” Federal attorneys had also filed a “statement of interest” in the case Wednesday, asking that the lawsuit — and the state’s response, which raised a constitutional question about the federal government’s involvement in approving election changes in Alaska — be dismissed.
Alaska election officials should not be barred from implementing the new redistricting plan because a requirement that the plan be approved by the federal government is unconstitutional, attorneys for the state contend. A federal three-judge panel is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday in the case brought by several Alaska Natives, who want the state barred from implementing the plan until the U.S. Justice Department weighs in on it. Justice has about a month yet to do so. Alaska’s primary is scheduled for Aug. 28. A divided Alaska Supreme Court in May approved use of the plan for this year’s elections, but any plan must pass muster both with the courts and Justice.
Two justices on the five-member Alaska Supreme Court are saying the court blew it when it adopted its new electoral district maps for Southeast Alaska, and are criticizing their colleagues’ decision making process as well. Justice Daniel Winfree, joined by Justice Craig Stowers, this week released a written dissent to the court’s decision changing which maps would be used in this year’s election. The court returned on May 22 to the original April 5 map that included Petersburg in with Juneau, instead of the May 10 map that included Haines with Juneau and which would have placed two incumbent Republicans, Reps. Cathy Muñoz of Juneau and Bill Thomas of Haines in the same district. “It is now beyond doubt that the April 5 plan violates the Alaska Constitution, at least with respect to Southeast Alaska,” the two justices wrote in a dissent released this week to the court’s surprise decision On the prevailing side in that decision were Chief Justice Walter Carpeneti, Justice Dana Fabe and Senior Justice Warren Matthews filling a vacancy on the court.
In a Thursday press reelase, the state of Alaska has expressed its opposition to the federal requirement that Alaska obtain federal pre-clearance for changes the state makes to its election process. The announcement comes more than a week after a U.S. District court judge ruled in Anchorage that preparations for the next Alaska election can proceed, pending federal approval of a revised plan to redraw the state’s election districts based on data from the 2010 Census. The judge didn’t rule on the merits of the plan, but did pave the way for a three-judge panel to consider on June 28 whether election planning can proceed pending final approval from the U.S. Department of Justice under Section 5 of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
A federal court in Alaska ruled on Friday against a group of Alaska Natives who wanted the court to stop the state from preparing for what it called an “illegal” redistricting plan for the 2012 elections, pending a ruling from a court. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason found that the preparations for the election will not cause “specified irreparable damage,” prior to an upcoming hearing on the plan. She did not, however, express an opinion on the merits of the pending redistricting plan. On June 28, a three-judge panel will consider whether election planning can proceed pending final say from the Department of Justice on whether the plan violates the federal Voting Rights Act.
A new report, released by a group of Anchorage voters who paid for a partial recount of April’s botched municipal election, calls into question several of the processes employed by election workers both on election night and during a recount afterwards. It was presented in front of the Anchorage Assembly today, by Anchorage voters Linda Kellen Biegel, Melissa Green, Carolyn Ramsey and others. The report also says the city violated its own election code, known as Title 28, when election workers handed out photocopied or sample ballots in place of official ones when polling places ran dry.
A group of Alaska Natives wants a federal court to stop the state from using what it calls an “illegal” redistricting plan for the 2012 election. Uncertain is what effect the lawsuit, reqAlauesting a preliminary injunction to stop that plan, will have on the Division of Election’s efforts to hold an Aug. 28 primary elections. That election would use newly drawn boundaries for the state’s 40 voting districts. Those boundaries were approved under an emergency redistricting plan that received the blessing of the state Supreme Court to allow the 2012 elections to go forward. With the lines redrawn, elections will take place for 59 of Alaska’s 60 legislative seats.
Alaska: Courts to blame for election map problems No guarantee election will happen as scheduled, chairman tells Chamber of Commerce | Juneau Empire
Alaska Redistricting Board Chairman John Torgerson criticized the Alaska Supreme Court for how it handled its involvement in drawing new state election maps in a speech to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. “This is a separation of powers issue, the court is trying to tell a constitutionally created board how to do its work,” the former Kenai legislator said. Juneau and its Southeast neighbors got a close-up look at that involvement when they were whipsawed back and forth, with first Petersburg, then Haines and finally Petersburg again part of a Juneau-based district. That happened as the court reversed itself on how it viewed the board’s attempt to create a Native-influenced voting district in Southeast. “We came down on the side that we wanted to protect Native voting strength in Southeast,” Torgerson said.