Two people testified Friday morning in support of a citizen’s ballot initiative that ties voter registration to the Permanent Fund Dividend application.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott opened the public hearing on Ballot Measure No. 1, the Permanent Fund Voter Registration Initiative, in Juneau. Three other public hearings in Fairbanks, Seward and Nome were also going on concurrently. The measure will be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
“There has been no submission of a statement of opposition,” he said of the largely uncontroversial measure. “After posting to the Alaska Online Public Notice System and solicitations, the Division of Elections did not receive a response for the statement in opposition for this ballot initiative.”
Marna Sanford in the Fairbanks Legislative Information Office said it’s a great idea to have Permanent Fund technology available for voter registration.
“I remember as a child, my mom having me sign my Permanent Fund application on the paper form, and we’ve watched as that division has used technology to make that easier. Now, I get an email from the state telling me it’s time to register for my PFD. It’s so easy and wonderful,” Sanford said. “It’s such a great way to use the technology that we’ve perfected for the Permanent Fund to make it easier for people to get involved.”
Natasha Singh, also testifying from the Fairbanks LIO, spoke in support of the measure on behalf of the Tanana Chiefs Conference and the 37 federally recognized tribes of the consortium.
“A lot of our tribal members are constantly moving between the village and urban centers and, unfortunately, registering to vote at their current address doesn’t always follow,” Singh said.
“We have found it difficult to register voters in the current system and we believe that once this initiative passes and everyone who applies for the PFD is also registered to vote, we will see an increased interest in our democracy. That’s what the ballot initiative will accomplish — a better democracy where everyone has a chance to have a voice in our elections, including Alaska natives who sometimes are a disenfranchised population,” she continued.
An initiative sponsor, John-Henry Heckendorn, also called in and read a statement of support.
In a comment submitted online Friday, Heckendorn wrote, “The Alaska Division of Elections has publicly projected that this initiative could result in as many as 70,000 newly registered voters in year one. (Currently, Alaska has about 500,000 registered voters.)”
If the measure passes, information submitted to the 2017 PFD application will also be sent to the Division of Elections. While the state processes PFD, the division will register eligible new voters and update addresses of established voters. New voters will receive a notification in the mail asking them to declare a political affiliation or opt out of the voter registration process. The proposition wouldn’t take away other forms of voter registration.
The public can submit comments on the ballot initiative any time up until the day of the election on the state’s Online Public Notices website, notice.alaska.gov. Otherwise, there is another opportunity for in-person or call-in testimony on Oct. 5 in Anchorage, Bethel, Sitka and Kotzebue.
The deadline to register for the November general election is Oct. 9.
Unregistered eligible voters will receive a postcard in the mail this week from the Division of Elections with information on how to register to vote, including the online site voterregistration.alaska.gov.