It soon could be legal to post selfies of marked ballots in Alaska. The state House on Wednesday passed legislation, 32-8, that would allow voters to share photos, videos or other images of their marked ballots with the public. They could not, however, show videos or images of their or another person’s marked ballot while in a polling place or within 200 feet of one in an attempt to get someone to vote a certain way. “People have new forms of digital expression whether it’s through social media, Facebook and Twitter or texting photos and Snapchat,” said Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, who co-sponsored the bill, CBS affiliate KTVA reports. Kreiss-Tompkins said that the Division of Elections receives a multitude of phone calls after each election cycle from Alaskans who fear they will be prosecuted for breaking state law because of a picture posted.
Articles about voting issues in Alaska.
Legislators are considering a bill this winter to clarify that someone voting in Alaska can post an online photo with their ballot. That’s currently not allowed under state law. Sitka democratic representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins sponsored House bill 7. His legislative intern Alicia Norton testified on the bill’ behalf in front of the House Community and Regional Affairs committee this month. “HB 7 is a ballot selfie bill which would allow a person to take a photo with their marked ballot and post it online,” Norton explained. “It’s currently illegal in Alaska but it’s not a heavily enforced law. And it’s just changing some language.” Kreiss Tomkins’ sponsor statement for the bill says ballot selfies have become a common way to express support for a candidate, a cause, or the act of voting itself.
In Alaska it’s illegal to “exhibit” a picture of a marked ballot. Sharing a ballot selfie isn’t a criminal offense as in some states, but it is technically grounds for invalidating that vote. Now, Alaska may be joining 22 other states who have legalized ballot selfies as a form of political speech. On Oct. 27, 2016, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin expressed her support for presidential candidate Donald Trump by posting a picture of her ballot on Facebook. The picture got 17,000 reactions, 560 shares and 616 comments. It also generated news articles questioning whether Palin had violated state law.
A group of Republicans trying to loosen campaign contribution limits in Alaska — following key decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years — is appealing a ruling by a federal judge in November that upheld the state’s strict limits. Kevin Clarkson, attorney for the plaintiffs, said on Monday that the ruling by U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess, an appointee of George W. Bush, came as no surprise. Burgess is bound to follow case law established by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that represents nine Western states, including Alaska, Clarkson said.
More people who speak Alaska Native languages but who have limited English proficiency will receive translated sample ballots and other election material. That’s due to changes the U.S. Census Bureau announced on Monday.
The Census Bureau expanded the number of areas and languages eligible for election material translation.
Indra Arriaga, who manages language assistance compliance for the state Division of Elections, said it’s important to ensure that people receive translated sample ballots and election outreach public service announcements in minority languages.
Alaska: Voters favor ballot measure tying voter registration to Permanent Fund dividends | Alaska Dispatch News
Alaskans were split on two ballot measures Tuesday, voting in favor of one that would automatically register voters when applying for the Permanent Fund dividend and against another to allow the state to borrow money for student loans. The first ballot measure, which was passing by a wide margin, automatically registers qualified Alaskans to vote when applying for a Permanent Fund dividend. Supporters noted it could capture tens of thousands of voters who qualify for the dividend and are eligible to vote but have not registered. Individuals could later choose to register for a party or opt out. With all but 10 precincts reporting statewide early Wednesday, the measure was passing with 64 percent of the vote. The measure was endorsed by a broad range of interest groups, including Alaska Native organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, oil company BP and Alaska U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.
Alaska: Federal judge rejects lawsuit challenging Alaska’s limits on campaign donations | Alaska Dispatch News
A federal judge Monday upheld Alaska’s strict limits on several types of state-level campaign contributions, ruling that they don’t violate the free speech or equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. A group of Republicans brought the suit in November, and a weeklong trial ended in May. The decision, from U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess, an appointee of George W. Bush, came a day before high-stakes legislative elections that may change control of the state House or Senate.
The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower court, and reinstated Dean Westlake as the winner of a disputed House election. “I’ve been dancing in my office for the last hour,” said Westlake’s attorney, Thomas Amodio. “They got it right. Four of them got it right, anyway, but that’s all that matters.” The court issued its two-page decision within five hours of hearing oral arguments in the case, with one judge partially dissenting. The high court had hoped to reach a quick decision so ballots could be shipped to villages in the Montana-sized House District 40 beginning Monday.
Alaska: Judge reverses House District 40 primary, gives Nageak a two-vote edge | Alaska Public Media
Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi ordered the Division of Elections to certify that incumbent Benjamin Nageak of Barrow won the primary over Dean Westlake of Kotzebue by a two-vote margin. The outcome of the primary could determine who organizes a House majority. While both are Democrats, Nageak caucuses with the Republican-led House majority, and Westlake said he’ll caucus with the Democrats. The decision reverses the outcome of a recount, which had Westlake winning by eight votes. Nageak, who is the co-chairman of the House Resources Committee, expressed relief. “I’m pleased by the court’s result and hopeful it will be sustained during the appeal to the Supreme Court,” Nageak said. “I’m sure that’s where it’s going to go. And I hope this decision will result in improvement of training.”
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.