Leg With Louie: Do we want more voters or do we want less voters?

The House State Affairs Committee will soon be discussing a statewide Vote-By-Mail proposal while in the Senate, SB 116 was recently introduced to modify the citizens initiative tying voting registration to Permanent Fund Dividend application. These bills are two different ends of a spectrum. One seeks to expand voting by increasing access to ballots via the Vote-by-Mail concept, and the other would curtail voting by adding an opt-in provision to the current law, established by Alaskan voters, which says that you are automatically registered to vote when you register and are approved to receive a PFD.

We have yet to see the language of the Vote-By-Mail proposal in the House. The AK Legislative website lists the bill as “pending introduction and referral.” This Vote-By-Mail proposal was neither introduced or referred last week, meaning the details are still being ironed out between the bill sponsor and Legislative Legal. We can assume it will use aspects of Oregon, Colorado, and Washington Vote-By-Mail statutes as models. These are the current states that offer Vote-By-Mail in all elections. Expect to hear a discussion on this bill and the appropriateness of this style of voting for Alaska before the end of the session. The National Conference of State Legislatures offers a tidy summary of the vote by mail issue across the U.S along with a brief exploration of advantages and disadvantages to the system.

The Senate State Affairs Committee will hear SB 116 on Tuesday, April 30th at 3:30 p.m. By requiring Alaskans to check a box on their PFD application and “opt-in,” instead of just being a registered voter as soon as they are of voting age and are approved to receive a PFD, SB 116 tweaks the citizens initiative and the result will be less eligible voters.  

Another component of SB 116 seems designed to create a subtle culture of paranoia around the integrity of our electoral system. SB 116 would establish an “Election Offence Hotline” and require the Director of the Division of Elections to “publicize the availability of the toll-free hotline and encourage the public to provide information to the division related to voter misconduct or other election offenses.”  It would further require the director to “have the election offense hotline number printed on a sticker and placed on voting machines, ballot envelopes, and other election materials.”

In itself, offering the public of phone number where they can call in problems they are having with voting, is not a bad thing. However, the words “voter misconduct” carry a specific weight that implies voter fraud, which in turn implies that our elections are not sound. Currently, we have a President of the United States who poisons the public well with talk of voter fraud whenever his party loses an election. We have a state run by a Trump-acolyte with a chief advisor who used to run the statewide Republican party. How can we trust that the simple “election offense hotline” concept will not be misused, or weaponized in some way to dissuade voting or create distrust in election outcomes?

Louie Flora
Government Affairs Director

Hearings to watch

(H)RESOURCES Apr 29 Monday 1:00 PM: SB 43 EXTEND BIG GAME BOARD; OUTFITTER LICENSE — Public Testimony <Time Limit May Be Set> — HB 138 NATIONAL RESOURCE WATER DESIGNATION — Public Testimony <Time Limit May Be Set> —

(H)TRIBAL AFFAIRS Apr 30 Tuesday 8:00: HB 142 NATIVE ORGANIZATIONS VPSO & TANF PROGRAMS: A Resolution urging the United States Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 without an exemption for tribal governments in the state and to support Savanna’s Act and highlight the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. <Pending Introduction & Referral> Presentation: The Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis

(S)FINANCE Apr 30 Tuesday 9:00 AM: SB 91 NUYAKUK RIVER: HYDROELECTRIC SITE

(H)FISHERIES Apr 30 Tuesday 10:00 AM: An Overview of British Columbia Mining in Shared Transboundary Watersheds

(H)STATE AFFAIRS Apr 30 Tuesday 3:00 PM: HJR 18 CONST AM: PERMANENT FUND; POMV;EARNINGS— Public Testimony — HJR 5CONST. AM: STATE TAX; INITIATIVE— Public Testimony — HJR 6 CONST. AM.:PERMANENT FUND & DIVIDEND — Public Testimony — HJR 7 CONST AM:APPROP. LIMIT; RESERVE FUND — Public Testimony —

(H)RESOURCES May 01 Wednesday 1:00 PM: Presentation: Oil and Gas Industry Update by Kara Moriarty, President & CEO, Alaska Oil &Gas Association, Scott Jepsen, VP of External Affairs & Transportation, ConocoPhillips, Damian Bilbao, VP of Commercial Ventures, BP, Scott Digert, Resource Development Area Manager, Greater Prudhoe Bay, BP, Benjamin Johnson, President & CEO, BlueCrest — Testimony <Invitation Only> —

(H)STATE AFFAIRS May 02 Thursday 3:00 PM: Presentation: Building Divestment with Office of Management & Budget HB 28 EQUAL PAY & MINIMUM WAGE ACT

(H)RESOURCES May 03 Friday 1:00 PM: SB 43 EXTEND BIG GAME BOARD; OUTFITTER LICENSE — Testimony <Invitation Only> — HB 138 NATIONAL RESOURCE WATER DESIGNATION — Testimony <Invitation Only> — HB 116 AQUATIC FARM/HATCHERY SITE LEASES <Pending Referral> — Public Testimony <Time Limit May Be Set> —

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