The right to vote is a foundation of our democracy and exercising that right is important. This year more than 19,000 Alaskans have registered to vote and most of them did it via our new online service. I’m hoping each and every one of you – newly registered and longtime voters – exercises your right to vote in our Alaska primary this Tuesday, August 16th. Both the primary and the general elections will have a profound impact on our state’s future and yours as well.
I took advantage of the state’s early and absentee-in-person voting that started August 1. By voting early, I can spend Election Day observing how we are doing in villages that were part of a lawsuit brought by Alaskans who demanded we provide language assistance as part of the Voting Rights Act. Under the guidance of Elections Director Josie Bahnke, the Division of Elections has worked hard to improve everything– from outreach and translations to customer service and updating the tired website. As part of the settlement, the US Department of Justice will be observing how we do both in the primary and the general elections.
The Alaska Division of Elections’ mission is straightforward — to ensure that every qualified voter has a meaningful opportunity to cast a ballot and have their vote counted. And the legal settlement’s message was clear. We needed to improve our performance and our communications with Alaskans. We are well on our way, with innovative team building for translators; adding dialects and additional language panels; updating glossaries; developing cost-effective election worker training using interactive online classes so that Alaskans can be trained on their time schedule, not ours; and, finally, keeping Alaskans informed with outreach to many groups such as the League of Women Voters and the Alaska Federation of Natives
Alaska is facing a fiscal crisis. The current legislature did not pass a fiscal plan that would provide us with a sustainable future. Despite a 44 percent drop in government spending over the past five years, and Governor Walker’s $1.2 billion in vetoes, we still have a $3.2 billion deficit. We have to use precious savings to cover the costs of this year’s budget. As Governor Walker has said, “How we deal with this crisis will define us all – with no less than Alaska’s future hanging in the balance.”
As you choose who to support during this critical time in our history, please ask your candidate how they plan to solve the budget crisis. Make sure whoever you pick shares your vision for a truly sustainable and prosperous Alaska.
If you didn’t register for Tuesday’s primary you still have time to gear up for the November 8 General Election. The last day to register or change registration for the general election is October 9. Regional offices are open for voter registration from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or you can register online at https://voterregistration.alaska.gov/
Byron Mallott is the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. Mallott oversees the Division of Elections as part of his duties.