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.
One of Mallott’s main roles is overseeing the Division of Elections and he had the next three-and-a-half years in mind, Richardson said. “He’d like it to be the best in the nation, so he was looking for some new leadership,” she said. Mallott, who was in Canada Monday and not available for comment, has already named Nome City Manager Josephine Bahnke to fill the post.
Some number of voting issues need attention in Alaska, Richardson said. An online voter registration project that has suffered from delays and contractual issues still needs to be completed, she said. Alaska’s AccuVote ballot-counting machines, installed under then Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, are aging. And the state needs to resolve a federal voting rights lawsuit, Richardson said.