League of Women Voters adopts new election policy

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, September 15, 2015 10:39pm
  • News

The Alaska League of Women Voters has adopted new policies advocating for preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, options for felons who have served their prison terms and allowing registration on Election Day, among others, to extend voting rights for Alaska’s residents.

The league announced the changes to its Elections Position Statement on July 13, which were the first revisions the organization made regarding the state’s election processes in nearly 50 years.

“It sounds horrendous that the state position was so old,” said chair of the Alaska League of Women Voters Voting Committee Marjorie Menzi with a laugh. “But we often took action on positions adopted by the national (League of Women Voters) organization related to elections.”

The league researched for two years policies recently implemented and supported by public and private organizations nationwide, to pinpoint practices that would be most effective in Alaska, Menzi said. The organization will work directly with legislators to achieve its new set of priorities, she said.

Some of the league’s new positions are already in effect legally, so they are simply reinforcing existing laws, Menzi said.

For example, multiple forms of identification will work for eligible voters who show up on Election Day, Menzi said.

The current credentials are not required to include a photograph, which has actually been shown to be a deterrent to turnout in some cases, she said.

However, a number of the league’s new positions have not been adopted legally.

According to the State of Alaska Division of Elections, convicted felons are not allowed to vote until their rights have been restored. Menzi said to more easily integrate offenders back into society once their incarceration terms are served, reinstating their rights will speed up the process. The less time it takes for reintegration, the more quickly offenders will contribute to their communities, she said.

The league also hopes to make registration on Election Day an option, Menzi said.

Since the league has been in existence, it has taken positions individually and cooperatively on national, state and local political issues, Menzi said.

The league consists of four chapters in Kenai, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau that would work to implement adopted policies and positions on the state and local levels, said Central Peninsula League of Women Voters President Gail Knobf.

“We support issues,” Knobf said. “We don’t support candidates, but we support issues to expand the process for all eligible voters.”

Knobf said some of the newly written positions are already being carried out by the local chapters.

The Central Peninsula Chapter already organizes in-school sessions to sign up students under the age of 18 who are not yet registered to vote, Knobf said.

“We just want to make the whole voting process easy for everybody so that everybody can vote that is eligible,” Knobf said.

For a complete list of the policy changes visit lwvalaska.org/index.html.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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