Alaska has a voting loophole big enough to cause problems. State officials and members of the Legislature must close it to safeguard our electoral process.
The problem is this: You don’t have to physically live here to vote here.
To be clear, we’re not talking about snowbirds who migrate south each winter and then return, students studying Outside or military personnel who are deployed overseas or transferred to a new assignment.
No, this is something different. According to voter registration requirements, someone can become an Alaska voter after just 30 days. If they move elsewhere, have the “intent” to return and don’t register to vote elsewhere, they may continue voting in Alaska elections. Forever.
Our state has stricter regulations for who gets a Permanent Fund Dividend than for voting.
Residents who permanently move to another state are no longer residents. They don’t pay local taxes or volunteer with local groups, and they are far more likely to be uninformed about local and statewide issues than those who physically live here.
In Washington, a voter must be a resident of the state for at least 30 days before the election. In Oregon, current residency also is required. Alaska’s voter requirements appear unique, but not in a good way.
Outside groups are willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to sway our elections. Tens of thousands of voters mail in ballots each year. Statewide races can be swung by just a few thousand votes. These are the ingredients for manipulation — even if no one has yet used the recipe and we don’t think it will be used, the threat is there.
Regardless of this loophole’s ability to influence elections, it simply isn’t right. It reduces the ability of local people to affect local issues.
We don’t know where the ballots are coming from, how long some voters have been absent from the state, or whether an Outside interest group is willing to abuse Alaska’s voting loophole to decide an election. We’d rather not find out.
Alaska should align its voter eligibility requirements to follow its PFD requirements. Those who don’t spend enough time in Alaska to qualify will still have the right to vote, it just won’t be here. The rest of us who have a stake in the outcome should be the ones to decide.
— Juneau Empire