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Tuesday, October 23, 2018
HomeAlaska NewsElection Division has moved hundreds of voters to new districts

Election Division has moved hundreds of voters to new districts

STATE FLUBS PERMANENT FUND AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION

When the Permanent Fund Dividend automatic voter registration went into effect this year, it came with unintended consequences: Several hundred, and probably thousands, of Alaska voters were reregistered to new voting districts by mistake.

The reason is, for some at least, is because they used a different address for their Permanent Fund application, the deadline of which was March 30.

Hawkins

Aaron Weaver, a candidate for House District 15, pictured above, found out in time — perhaps.

Weaver, who is running against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux in the Republican primary, discovered that the Division of Elections had assigned him to District 20. He only found out when he received a card from the Division of Elections, but he didn’t get the card within the 30-day period required to change his address back to his home address in East Anchorage.

Weaver, who is a photographer and videographer, uses his downtown business address for most business transactions and had used it for his Permanent Fund Dividend application.

At first, Weaver thought it was perhaps a nefarious action on the part of the opposition to disqualify him from being a candidate. But then he talked to the people at the Division of Elections, and he reported to Must Read Alaska that  they told him it’s a mess — it’s happening to possibly thousands of people who have either been registered into the wrong district or have been wrongly registered to vote.

For instance, felons who have not had their voting rights restored, but who applied for a PFD, have been registered to vote by the Division of Elections, against the conditions of their release. This could get them in big trouble, according to a source inside the Division of Elections who needs to remain anonymous.

But for a candidate to be removed from his own district? That was shocking to Weaver.

“I was definitely not the first voter affected by this mixup,” Weaver said. “But apparently I’m the first candidate affected.”

Weaver said he was told to go online and re-register and then vote in his district, but he’s not convinced the problem is solved in his case or in the cases of an unknown number of voters.

The situation developed because the Permanent Fund application information is overwriting that on file with the Division of Elections, according to sources in Division of Elections.

Voters might see a card from the Elections Division, and it may have the wrong information on it, but they might not have looked at the card, and now it’s too late to correct it in time for the primary election.

That’s not all. There’s still Election Day, Aug. 21.

Voters who now are early voting at, for example, the Gambell Street office, are able to deal with Elections officials who have access to the information from all 40 districts.

But voters who cast ballots on Election Day might find they walk into polling places, where temporary employees only have access to limited voter files in that district. They’ll be voting a questioned ballot, and they’ll have to contact the Division of Elections to correct the information on file.

No one at this point knows how many voters are affected by the unfortunate overwrite of information. But according to Weaver, the Division of Elections employees he talked to said it is a widespread problem.

“As a candidate, I was really sick to my stomach about this, thinking I’d have to either withdraw from the race or figure out how to get them to fix it,” he said. “And I’m worried about it happening to my fellow Alaskans.”

CAMPAIGNS WILL BE AFFECTED

Not only are voters impacted by the overwrite of the information, campaigns that depend on correct voter addresses from the Division of Elections could be sending mail to the wrong voters.

At this point, candidates who use databases that are synchronized with information from the Division of Elections, will want to pull back and review their work. In a primary race where 200 votes make a difference, having the wrong addresses may change outcomes for get-out-the-vote efforts.

Campaigns will also not know which of the Division of Election updates have correct information, but should figure that anything after the Permanent Fund dividend filing date of March 30 is going to be riddled with errors.

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Please refresh my memory, just who had the bright idea to do this not so bright thing? And since it has been done, why on earth didn’t the people doing this, think through all that could go wrong, and fix it before it completely messed up two programs that seemed to be working well.

    • The 65% of Alaskans who voted for the initiative in 2016.

  • you can look up your registration here: https://myvoterinformation.alaska.gov/

  • “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action” – Ian Fleming, Goldfinger, 1959.

    Too many “interesting” things taking place in the elections for it not to be intentional. The next governor is going to have as much swamp draining as Trump has in front of him in DC. Cheers –

  • What has Byron Mallott run that has not gone completely to mud? Sealaska Corp. had to be taken over by its bank, and bank people installed right in Juneau. The Permanent Fund Corp (until he was fired). Mayor of Juneau, until he abruptly resigned. Commissioner of Community and Regional Affairs was a disaster among disasters. We had better check in on the other two Lt. Gov. responsibilities; the State Seal and the notaries public. Anyone seen the State Seal lately?

  • Wait! A ballot initiative that went horribly wrong?? This is my surprised face.

  • Ballot initiatives are the worst form of political action. Because the public is often driven to sign the petition and then to vote for or against an initiative by feelings rather than by an informed decision making process.

  • Aaron Weaver is NOT running in District 15. There are NO signs. There have been NO mailings. He has NOT gone door-to-door. He does not show up at community events. He does NOT return telephone calls. And I think he has no campaign manager. How are we expected to vote for him? I attend a fundraiser early on and some people contributed to his campaign, so I wonder what happened with that money. To repeat: Aaron Weaver is not running !

  • Just a thought…. if this might help to find people that are claiming the PFD illegally?

  • It hasn’t gone “horribly wrong.” It’s a new system and it may have hiccoughs. For those who show up at the polls on election day and vote a questioned ballot; you DO NOT have to contact the Division of Elections to correct your address. The information YOU enter onto the questioned ballot envelope will go to the Division of Elections for correction. Maybe there needs to be a check box added to the PFD application regarding whether the address you use to apply is your residence address? Doesn’t seem like a hugely heavy lift.

  • *Gambell