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.
Articles about voting issues in Alaska.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.