Election Day glitches reported with phone lines, precincts open late

Tuesday's top stories and headlines across the state
Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 9:33 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Department of Justice was out monitoring several polling places throughout Alaska on Election Day. They were on hand to address any potential complaints and language barrier issues that could interfere with a person’s right to vote. Nationwide, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division team went to 64 different jurisdictions, some for different reasons.

Federal poll monitors were sent to four areas of Alaska: the City of Bethel, Dillingham Census Area, Kusilvak Census Area and Sitka City-Borough.

Public affairs spokesperson Aryele Bradford says they sent these federal monitors to respond to complaints but primarily to make sure that Alaska Natives understood the ballot issues and had access to poll workers who could help them. Last year, the Census Bureau determined sections of Alaska met the language access requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Essentially, the government found a high enough population of Alaska Natives who couldn’t speak or understand English well enough to participate in the electoral process.

The law now requires those areas to have bilingual poll workers present and the state must provide a language assistance phone number for those who still need help.

There are two numbers Alaska’s Division of Elections has provided, one is toll-free, 866-954-8683, and the other is local, 907-275-2333. At around 2:30 p.m., Alaska’s News Source called those numbers multiple times but they weren’t working. Tiffany Montemayor, spokesperson for Alaska’s Division of Elections, said they looked into the issue and realized the lines had somehow become disconnected.

It took about 10 minutes to get them back online.

Alaska’s News Source then called the language assistance numbers again and this time got through to an operator who admitted the lines were likely disconnected until mid-afternoon. She believed this because our call was the first they had received after they re-connected the lines.

There were also problems reported at two small precincts in Western Alaska. The towns of Teller and Nuiqsut didn’t open until the afternoon because it took that long to find poll workers. At the end of the day, all 401 precincts throughout the state were open for voters to cast their ballots.