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.
Proponents of the measure raised over $1.3 million to pay for the campaign. The biggest backers include the National Education Association, the teachers union, and the New Venture Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based foundation that supports global development and health projects, conservation and climate change initiatives and education programs.
No official opposition group formed to oppose the measure. However, it drew criticism from some Republicans who questioned its costs. A state estimate shows implementation could cost up to $1 million in the first year and an additional $300,000 annually.
But supporters contend the measure would actually save the state between $200,000 and $300,000 in reduced paperwork for voter registrars in the Alaska Division of Elections.