Answers Demanded From Alaska Division of Elections Regarding 'Unprecedented' Rate of Rejected Ballots
June 21, 2022
On June 14, the Alaska Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Division of Elections and the Lieutenant Governor demanding answers for what they say is the staggering rejection rates of mail-in ballots in the special primary election for the United States Congress. According to Division of Elections data, one area of Alaska had more than 17% of all ballots received so far rejected.
06/11/22 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS : 2022 SPECIAL PRIMARY ELECTION Election Summary Report (pdf)
1 Sarah Palin 27.02%
2 Nick Begich 19.13%
3 Al Gross 12.63%
4 Mary Peltola 10.06%
(5 th place finisher will not advance after Gross withdrew.
June 21 - Final ballot count
June 23 - State Review Board begins
June 25 - Target certification date
June 26 by 12:00pm - Candidate withdrawal deadlinefor the Special General Election
The Division of Elections currently reports a 9.0% rejection rate in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage, and 15.2% and 17.4% rejection rates respectively in the rural areas of Bering Straits/Yukon Delta and Bethel/Lower Kuskokwim. Mail-in ballots may still be received after the final postmark date of June 11.
“This incredible rate of ballots being thrown out in Alaska’s first mail-in election is absolutely unacceptable,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage).
“These numbers, if verified, mean Alaska Natives and other minorities and residents from less affluent areas have been denied their right to vote. Vote by mail works, but only if implemented so that all citizens have a chance for their vote to be counted,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich (D-Anchorage).
In the 2020 primary, 1,240 ballots were rejected out of 62,455 mail-in votes cast. That was a rejection rate of 2%.
“Every Alaskan, who is registered to vote, deserves to participate in our elections and their votes must be counted. While the Division of Elections has done a good job running our elections in the past, Alaskans need to know why so many ballots were discarded in our first, statewide by-mail election in this June election. We need answers now so Alaskans can maintain their confidence in future elections,” said Senator Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks).
The target certification of the special primary election result is June 25, 2022.
Prior to Alaska Senate Democrats demanding answers, Native Peoples Action (NPA) called on Governor Dunleavy, Lt. Governor Meyer and all legislators to prioritize fixing Alaska’s election system. The latest statistics of the preliminary results for the special election primary showed that out of nearly 140,000 ballots in hand, the Alaska Division of Elections rejected 4,830 by-mail ballots with inexplicable disparities in rejection rates across the state, with disproportionate rates of rejected ballots coming from rural Alaska and BIPOC or English as a second language districts. Rejection rates of the first by-mail election to fill Alaska’s sole congressional seat is unacceptable and solutions need to be implemented.
Kendra Kloster, Native Peoples Action, said,“By rejecting an astounding number of special election primary ballots, the State of Alaska is silencing the voices of our people who turn out to vote, many who are already facing increased barriers to voting access. We call on Alaska’s leadership to heed the call from Alaskans: take action to ensure that when our people turn out to vote that all our voices are heard and our votes are counted. Without a voting system that will ensure all Alaskan voices are counted and heard, the State of Alaska is failing our people.” -
Alaskans, both in rural and urban districts, already face innumerous barriers to voting to which Native Peoples Action and partner organizations have been advocating solutions for many years. Native Peoples Action has advocated for changes and solutions including ballot curing, increased educational and outreach efforts about voting from the Division of Elections, and yet no bill has been passed. Additionally, NPA has reached out to communities across the state to listen and learn about the voting barriers, and have passed on common sense solutions to Governor Dunleavy, Lt. Governor Meyer, the Division of Elections and Alaska’s Legislators. We have shared testimony in response from community members whose barriers to voting we have heard countless times and have yet to see proactive steps being taken by Alaska’s leadership to remove these barriers to voting. It’s time for this broken election system to be fixed to ensure our voices are heard and our votes are counted.
Native Peoples Action (NPA) sent a letter to Governor Dunleavy, Lt. Governor Meyer and Alaska’s legislators with the following requests:
The Division of Elections provide an explanation for the number of rejected ballots, including:
The number of rejected ballots in each community in Alaska
The communities where there is no AVO or election worker to accept ballots
The number of translated ballots sent
Education and outreach done:
to inform rural communities of the witness signature requirement
to inform Alaskans of the postal service and deadlines for the postmark in the most remote parts of the state, for example did the state explicitly relay that in order for your ballot to be valid, it must be postmarked by a certain date, and that dropping it off in the mail on election day is not adequate
The number of communities the division of elections arranged and had direct pre-election meetings with to ensure communities were equipped with the tools necessary to conduct an election, as well as PPE equipment and training materials
Weather delays that may have impacted the delivery of ballots and what the procedure is for weather delayed ballots
Radio and other public service announcements done to inform the public of vote by mail requirements
Creation of an avenue to allow an opportunity to cure these by-mail ballots to ensure Alaskans right to vote is not disparaged, like it is currently
Collaborations between the postmasters and the division of elections, including prioritization of election material during the election period
A report of how the state complied with the Toyukak order and section 203 of the Voting Rights Act this election cycle
Implementation of a procedure to assess and monitor the effectiveness of the division of elections outreach to rural communities
Research into how many ballots may have been lost and ballots that arrived after the deadline, therefore, not being counted despite voters sending in their ballot
An analysis and report of what systems failed during this by-mail election to cause such a high level of rejected ballots
Statute changes to address these by-mail shortcomings created by the state in addition to recommendations previously sent on our current voting issues (previous letter included to outline a variety of issues we have brought forward for action for a number of years)
The legislature hold a special hearing on the failures of this by-mail election, including representatives from the Division of Elections, rural communities, Tribal leaders, post masters, air carriers, communities with no post office, and public testimony on this by-mail process
Edited By: Mary Kauffman, SitNews
Source of News:
Native Peoples Action (NPA)
Alaska Senate Democrats
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