A bill aimed at addressing concerns about ballot tampering in Alaska has generated considerable interest in the first weeks of the legislative session. Senate Bill 39, introduced by Sen. Mike Shower (R-Wasilla) has already had several hearing with the next scheduled for Feb. 25 in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
The bill looks to ensure that all mail-in ballots are carefully tracked from the day they are sent out until the moment they are ultimately destroyed after the election.
“Chain of custody is the foundation of ballot integrity,” Shower said in a statement about his bill. “Once you lose chain of custody, you lose ballot integrity.”
Shower said he supports mail-in voting, but only with careful tracking, including the post-election destruction of ballots once they have all been accounted for by the Division of Elections.
“Current practice allows ballots to be destroyed in precinct without central accounting,” Showers observed. “SB 39 requires the director to establish in regulation, best practices for chain of custody protocols, and provides affected parties reasonable notice for ballot handling observation opportunities.”
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His bill also establishes an election offence hotline number that allows Alaskans to report voting irregularities or concerns. The number would be publicly posted at polling places and election privacy envelopes. Likewise, the bill requires election workers to immediately notify the elections director of any irregularities and then allows for an audit of ballots in precinct, immediately after the election.
Furthermore, the measure prohibits absentee voting via facsimile, which is less secure than mail-in ballots. The bill also aims to secure the state’s voter rolls by repealing automatic voter registration when Alaskans sign up for their PFDs. Shower’s bill requires Alaskans to proactively request to be registered to vote.
The wide-ranging bill also explicitly states that it is a crime to knowingly collect a ballot from another voter unless they are a caretaker or family member of the voter or engaged in official duties as an election official, postal worker or private commercial delivery service. It clarifies that it is a crime to “intentionally” open or tamper with a sealed ballot certificate and envelope without express authorization from the Division of Elections director.
“My intent is – through rigorous debate and the committee process – to listen to all sides and make voting, including mail in voting, more secure, so Alaskans can be confident in their election system,” Shower stated.
- SB 39, which deals with vote security and regulations, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Feb. 25 at 3:30 p.m. Testimony is by invitation only at this hearing.
- Click here to contact members of the State Affairs Committee.
- Click here to read the bill.