Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks during a press conference announcing the administration’s push for changes to the state’s election system on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kevin Goodman, State of Alaska)

Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks during a press conference announcing the administration’s push for changes to the state’s election system on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kevin Goodman, State of Alaska)

Governor proposes sweeping changes to election system

Dunleavy plans to put the “election integrity” bill before the Alaska Legislature next session.

Citing concerns about election security, changes to Alaska’s voting structure and redistricting, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer have proposed an “election integrity” bill that they plan to put before the Alaska Legislature next session. The two announced the bill during a press conference held Tuesday afternoon at the Atwood Building in Anchorage.

“There’s always been concerns about election integrity, no matter where you are, what state you’re in, what city,” Dunleavy told reporters Tuesday. “This past year, we know, there’s been a lot of discussion about it and we just want to make sure that as we move forward in Alaska, that a lot of those concerns and those worries are taken care of.”

Among other things, the “Election Integrity Bill” would require people applying for an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend to request voter registration instead of being automatically registered; allows for ballot curing or correcting; and introduces a “more thorough” definition of crimes around election fraud.

It would also include statutory changes to language regarding maintenance of voter lists, the creation of a toll-free “election offense hotline” for voters to use “if they see questionable activity at the polls” and the reinforcement of “the belief that absentee ballot signatures should be witnessed.”

“We need to be ready, we need to be prepared and Alaskans need to feel sure and know that our elections are conducted fairly,” Meyer said of the bill.

Dunleavy said the bill will be introduced during the first week of the upcoming legislative session, which begins on Jan. 18, and that he wants to see the Legislature take it up as soon as possible. A public copy of the bill language is expected to be available around that time.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Dunleavy said Tuesday. “I’m not saying that to pressure anyone. What I am saying is, with the election less than a year away and with the new voting scheme and redistricting, this … adds a bit of focus on tackling some of the issues within this bill.”

2022 will be a busy election year for Alaska. In addition to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House races, 19 out of 20 Alaska State Senate seats and all 40 Alaska State House seats will be up for grabs. That’s in addition to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has already filed his intent to run for reelection.

Efforts to bolster election security have also been underway on the peninsula. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved sweeping changes to how the borough conducts elections over the summer, including adding an “election integrity and security” chapter to borough code. The October 2021 municipal election was also the first where voting machines compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act were used.

Meyer said the bill consolidates some of the election integrity bills that have already been introduced by multiple legislators in addition to containing new proposals from state officials. It also comes in the wake of a 2020 data breach that exposed the personal information of about 113,000 Alaska voters.

Since that data breach, Meyer said the state has hired “many contractors” to conduct vulnerability and penetration testing. Multiple weeks of testing are also lined up for January.

In response to concerns about what he called “misinformation” regarding Alaska’s Dominion voting equipment, Meyer clarified that the state’s Dominion tabulators do not connect to the internet and are “thoroughly tested” prior to being deployed. For example, Meyer said all of the votes from one precinct in each district are hand counted to make sure the machines are tabulating correctly.

“We feel very good about the tabulators that we’re using,” Meyer said.

Meyer announced during the same conference that he will not seek reelection in 2022. He has served as lieutenant governor for three years and is heading into his fourth, and previously served in both the Alaska House of Representatives and the Alaska Senate.

Tuesday’s press conference can be viewed in full on Dunleavy’s Facebook page.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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