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Dunleavy administration makes renewed election integrity legislation push

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 7:38 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy wants to improve election integrity through legislation introduced earlier in the week. In late December, he said that was a priority for 2022.

“We just want to make sure that as we move forward in Alaska that our concerns, our worries, are taken care of,” he said.

The Dunleavy administration’s bill draws partly on elements taken from other election-related legislation already introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers:

  • It takes provisions from Republican Sen. Mike Shower’s bill that would implement a new system for absentee ballot tracking.
  • It modifies Democratic Rep. Chris Tuck’s proposal to allow voters to register once to receive absentee ballots and then keep getting them indefinitely. Instead, voters could register for absentee ballots for four years.
  • It takes a proposal from Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton, to implement an election offense hotline to field complaints from the public.

There are proposals to implement a signature verification system for absentee ballots at an estimated cost of over $5 million. It’s similar to a system already in use in the Municipality of Anchorage.

The bill seeks to end automatic voter registration when Alaskans apply for their Permanent Fund dividends, turning it into an “opt in” system. The lieutenant governor’s office said it wants to use additional databases when maintaining the state’s voter roll to give it additional flexibility to determine if someone has died or moved out of Alaska.

The administration wants to make “ballot harvesting” illegal and increase penalties for ballot tampering. The bill also contains provisions to repeal some voter identification options, meaning Alaskans wouldn’t be able to show a utility bill or a paycheck to vote.

Administration officials are meeting with Shower, who didn’t want to comment yet on this new bill as he is still examining it, and Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, to start organizing committee hearings in the House of Representatives and Senate.

There have been different priorities across the aisle, from more security for elections to more accessibility for voting.

There have been accusations of electoral fraud from 2020 races and thousands of Alaskans had their data breached in the lead up to the last election. There are mixed feelings in the Capitol as to whether any election bills can pass through a sharply divided Legislature this year.

“It’s hard to say,” Tuck said. “I think there’s momentum because of the focus after the success of the last election. There’s also been accusations taking place on whether or not our elections have the faith of the public.”

Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, suggested Alaskans will have to wait and see what happens during the session.

“I think as the temperature rises in the Legislature with issues with the budget, issues with ranked-choice voting, for instance, you’re probably going to have something move or just implode,” he said.

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