Election integrity is a major concern in states across the nation, including Alaska. To address absentee voting and other voting issues, Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer introduced a bill on Feb. 12, which aims to provide additional tools for the Division of Elections to increase Alaskan’s trust in elections and the voting process.
“The integrity of our elections is of utmost importance – we cannot have a functioning democracy without it,” Meyer said of his legislation. “This bill would not create an overhaul of our existing elections system but rather bolster what already works.”
Meyer said SB 83 reflects his firsthand experience in overseeing the 2020 primary and general elections.
Meyer’s Senate Bill 83 adds to the cluster of election integrity bills which have already been introduced in the current legislative session by Sen. Mike Shower (SB 39), Sen. Shelley Hughes (SB 43), and Rep. George Rauscher (HB 23).
“There are many issues being considered by my bill and the ones already under consideration in the Legislature,” Meyer said in response to Watchman questions. “I am looking to add new ideas to the conversations already happening in committee. Whatever we can do to increase trust and transparency in elections we support, whether that be the ideas in Senator Shower’s bill, Senator Hughes’ bill, or any legislator that is working on this type of election reform.
Meyer said ideas presented in SB 83 reflect his firsthand experience in overseeing the 2020 primary and general elections. A particular motivation for the bill arises from the Alaska Supreme Court ruling which did away with the witness verification signature which is intended to ensure the identity of absentee voters.
Meyer said he hopes his bill works to ‘reinforce the fundamental cornerstone of one person one vote.’
“The Supreme Court decision to eliminate the witness signature gave rise to the issue that our statutes needed more specificity surrounding the voter certificates on absentee ballots,” Meyer said. “When reviewing the statutes during the legal challenge to the witness signature, we found that these sections needed to be strengthened to make the legislative intent perfectly clear of what the requirements are that need to be met for an absentee ballot to be legally submitted and counted.”
Additionally, Meyer’s bill allows the Division of Elections to conduct more random audits in voter precincts if concerns arise about fraud or misconduct during elections. Currently, the division can only conduct an audit in one precinct per district.
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The bill also gives the Division of Elections the option to allow mail-in voting should the state get locked out of a small community (less than 750 residents) due to something like COVID, or if poll worker recruitment proves to be too difficult to get enough workers to open the polls normally, Meyer said.
“Recruitment difficulties in some of our smaller communities demonstrated a need for the flexibility to provide additional options to maintain Alaskans’ right to vote,” he said.
Meyer’s bill also allows the state to use regulations, rather than statutes, to set the price for recount costs.
“These figures were last changed over 15 years ago and do not accurately reflect the actual costs of recounting races,” Meyer said. “By moving them to regulation the Division would be able to adjust the amounts to reflect those actual costs as well as accommodating for hand counts, if requested.”
Meyer said he hopes the bill can “make Alaska’s elections more efficient, more secure, and work to reinforce the fundamental cornerstone of one person one vote.”
- Senate Bill 83 is currently in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Click here to contact members of the committee.