By AlaskaWatchman.com

Alaska’s election system has been plagued by bloated voter rolls for years. The mounting problem is rife for election fraud, especially with regards to absentee voting.

The difficulties are perhaps most clearly illustrated when contrasting Alaska’s declining population with the state’s burgeoning voter registration rolls. According to the Alaska Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development, the past five years have seen a steady decline in the state’s overall population – dropping from 740,637 people in 2016 to just 728,903 in 2020. That’s a net loss of 11,734 people.

During this same time period, however, the overall number of registered voters has ballooned by 66,976 – growing from 528,671 in 2016 to 595,647 in 2020.

“From 2016 to 2020, Alaska lost 11,734 citizens but gained 66,976 new voters.”

According to information on the Alaska Division of Elections website, during a seven month stretch leading up to the 2020 general election, from the beginning of the COVID lockdown in March through October, Alaska’s voter rolls jumped by 23,731 voters. Additionally, according to a voter data base from the state, 36,550 new voter registrations were added for the calendar year 2020. Many Alaskans question these numbers given there was a global pandemic in which Alaska’s population influx was impacted by the Canadian border shut down, heightened global travel restrictions and a reduction in military personnel transfers.

In attempting to explain how a state in steady decline has skyrocketing voter registration growth, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyers said Alaska is unique in that it has a high population turnover each year. This is true. Fueled by military transfers and employment changes, between 2016 and 2020, Alaska has seen 147,729 new people enter the state, and 182,042 depart.

People who have moved away more than three years ago, and who never intend to return, can still cast Alaska ballots.

Since Alaskans are allowed to remain on the state’s voter rolls for up to four years after departing the state, this massive population shift creates serious problems when trying to determine who is actually a resident and therefore legally eligible to vote. It also means there are tens of thousands of people still on the state’s voter rolls who no longer live or work in Alaska, many never to return.

Alaska’s Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer has acknowledged this growing problem. A few weeks after the 2020 general election he posted answers to a number of questions he had received about the security and integrity of the recent election.

Meyer explained that Alaska and federal law allows voters to remain registered in the state as they “intend to return.” The state, however, has no way to tell if a voter “intends to return.” According to Meyer, “when people move out of state and don’t notify us, they stay on the rolls for as many as four years, further expanding our voter rolls.” He also noted that, “Any registered Alaskan voter, regardless of location, can vote in our elections.”

Nefarious actors could request that ballots be sent to them so long as they had enough of the voter’s information on hand to request their ballot.

That means people who have moved away nearly four years ago, and who never intend to return, can still cast Alaska ballots.

According to state law, Alaskans can remain registered voters if they leave the state for civil or military service, or because of marriage to someone engaged in civil or military service. They may also vote if they are absent for educational reasons, prison terms or because of navigating the high seas. According to state law, residency status does not change for any of the above situations unless a person has the “intent to remain in another place.”

Having tens of thousands of “registered voters” who may or may not be Alaska residents creates a serious dilemma when it comes to absentee ballots. According to state law, any Alaskan can request an absentee ballot for any reason. A person (or their representative) must simply provide the voter’s name, residence, mailing address, social security number, voter ID and date of birth. The state will then mail the absentee ballot to the designated address.

Hackers had access to many of the very items needed to request absentee ballots in someone else’s name.

If, however there are droves of “registered voters” who don’t actually vote – as is the case in Alaska – nefarious actors could request that one or more of these ballots be sent to them so long as they had enough of the voter’s information on hand to fraudulently request their ballot.

And this brings us to the last point. Weeks before the Nov. 3, 2020 election, hackers gained access to the Alaska Division of Elections voter registration system – accessing the personal data of 113,000 voters. The hackers had access the very items needed to request absentee ballots in someone else’s name. This included: names, birth dates, last four digits of Social Security Numbers, driver’s licenses, state issued identification numbers, residences, mailing addresses, registered political affiliations and email addresses.

Plus, the ability to cast fraudulent votes was made easier when, just weeks before the election, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that Alaska could not enforce a law aimed at maintaining the integrity of absentee voting by requiring the signature of one witness to help verify the authentic identity of an absentee voter.

Additionally, this past spring a sophisticated cyber attack gained access to even more personal information of an unknown number of Alaskans when the state’s Department of Health website was hacked. This stolen data included full names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses, telephone numbers, driver’s license numbers, case reports, protective service reports, Medicaid information, health information, financial data and more.  This extensive data gives bad actors all the tools needed to unlawfully request absentee ballots be mailed to them in future elections.

Concern about Alaska’s election system has prompted calls by a number of state legislators to reform and strengthen voting laws and policies. While Lt. Gov. Meyer, who is tasked with defending the integrity of elections, has so far ignored calls for a comprehensive audit of the 2020 elections, a handful of legislators (most notably Sen. Mike Shower) have introduced substantial bills  to address mounting problems with Alaska’s election process. To date, all of these measures remain in various legislative committees and have yet to even receive a vote.

Additionally, Rep. David Eastman launched an online petition urging Alaskans to demand a full forensic audit of the Nov. 3 elections. The petition states that confidence in the integrity of the election process “is paramount to the preservation of a free society” and “robust and timely audits of Alaska’s election process have the ability to identify any weaknesses in that process and also provide Alaskans with the confidence that their vote, and the votes of their fellow Alaskans, are counted correctly.”

One example of frustration for many Alaskans is Ballot Measure 2, the implementation of ranked choice voting in Alaska, which was passed by a 3,700 vote margin. With a massive influx of just under 67,000 registered voters during former President Trump’s administration, while Alaska lost 11,700 people as a state, it may have taken only 5.5% of these new voters to swing the vote on Ballot Measure 2 and force this new law upon Alaskans.

The problem of bloated voter registration in states like Alaska was highlighted by the political watchdog group, Judicial Watch. Three weeks before the last general election, the group listed Alaska among several states that had a voter registration rates which exceeded 100% of the voting population. Their study showed 1.8 million excess, or “ghost voters” across 29 states.

“The data highlights the recklessness of mailing blindly ballots and ballot applications to voter registration lists,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Dirty voting rolls can mean dirty elections.”

The problem of Alaska’s ever-more bloated voter rolls is continuing in 2021, even as the overall population declines. From September 2020 to September 2021 the Division of Elections website shows that Alaska has added another 3,678 voters and counting.

TAKING ACTION

  • Click here to contact Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer who is charged with overseeing state elections.

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.

ELECTION INTEGRITY: Despite declining population Alaska has skyrocketing voter rolls

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.