Dunleavy administration to make renewed push for state election reform

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration will make a renewed push to reform the state’s election system when the next legislative session begins in January.
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 7:32 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration will make a renewed push to reform the state’s election system when the next legislative session begins in January.

The administration unveiled the plan’s key “concepts” during a press conference on Tuesday where Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer also announced that he would not be seeking reelection in 2022.

“Our goal has always been ever since I have been lieutenant governor, and it will continue to be, to make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat,” Meyer said.

The omnibus bill, which is still in draft form and has not been released publicly, takes liberally from other election-related legislation already introduced by Republican and Democratic legislators.

  • There’s a plan to end automatic voter registration when Alaskans apply for their Permanent Fund dividends, which Meyer had proposed earlier in the year.
  • There are ideas taken from Republican Sen. Mike Shower’s bill to better track absentee ballots.
  • A requirement for the Alaska Division of Elections to review certain records, such as voters who have died, voters registered in other states or certain felony convictions.
  • The Dunleavy administration flagged that there would be an absentee ballot curing process, allowing for mistakes to be corrected on those ballots so those votes would still be counted.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Chris Tuck has long pushed for changes to voting, aiming to improve accessibility and security. He says there will be pressure to make voting by mail easier after record numbers of Alaskans cast their ballots that way during the last election.

“I think the public is going to somewhat demand it,” Tuck said.

Shower didn’t want to comment on Dunleavy’s election bill having not seen it yet, but said he’s prepared to work across the aisle for a compromise package that can pass and be signed by the governor into law in 2022.

The 2020 election cycle sparked allegations of fraud, and dozens of unsuccessful court challenges, by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

“There was no widespread fraud,” Meyer said about Alaska’s election results, explaining that some minor, isolated incidents are still being investigated.

Dunleavy says some of these election reform ideas came long before the 2020 election. But there are some new ideas, too.

Meyer explained there are proposals to buy one or more vote tabulation and signature verification machines for absentee ballots that are used by the Municipality of Anchorage for local elections. That idea has been discussed for a while, Meyer said, but it will be up to the Legislature to approve purchasing them.

There are also proposals to better manage the state’s voter rolls. Meyer said that could see Alaska gather data from a national address database to ensure that information is still accurate.

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, chairs the House State Affairs Committee. He says there have been informal conversations about consolidating legislators’ election bills into one package.

Kreiss-Tomkins likes some of the proposals being floated such as ballot curing, but opposes ending automatic voter registration, which he championed in 2016 when it was successfully approved by Alaskans as a ballot measure.

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