LT. GOV. SAYS THANKS, BUT HE’LL FOLLOW THE LAW
The ACLU of Alaska and associated groups are threatening to sue the Lt. Governor and the Division of Elections because the groups say people should not have to have their absentee ballot signatures witnessed.
If Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer actually waived the witnessing requirement, he would be breaking Alaska Statute.
But the groups are peeved because Democrats made a big effort to get out the absentee Democrat vote, and more than 10 percent of the extra votes they can rightfully take credit for — some 1,200 votes — were thrown out because the voters didn’t follow directions and have their ballots witnessed.
“The ACLU of Alaska, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Native American Rights Fund call upon Alaska’s Lt. Governor, Kevin Meyer, to remove an unnecessary voting barrier facing Alaskans in the November General Election,” the group wrote to the lieutenant governor on Monday. The groups say the law “disenfranchises many voters who would have to choose between their health and their vote if the rule continues to be upheld.”
Alaska is one of 11 states that requires a witness to verify that the person signing the ballot is really the voter. It’s a loose requirement that provides a modicum of election security. Alaska is a “no excuse” voting state already, with some of the most liberal absentee ballot rules around — any registered voter can vote one, even if they are not technically absent from their district. It’s Alaska’s functional mail-in ballot, but it has that one requirement: Did someone else see you sign that ballot?
Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer wrote a letter back to the consortium: “I am sure you would agree that election integrity begins with following the law. If an election is not conducted legally by following the statutes duly passed by the legislature, there can be no basis to believe in the election’s integrity. Making exceptions to the statutes, even on a piecemeal basis, would erode the foundation upon which Alaskans have built their faith in the election process.”
Meyer went on to say the Office of Lt. Governor lacks the power to unilaterally waive the statutory witness requirement.
“The witness requirement is central to the absentee ballot statutory scheme and is not a mere procedural requirement. AS 15.20.081(d) sets forth the witness requirement, and AS 15.20.203(b)(2) mandates that an absentee ballot be rejected and not counted if it is not properly witnessed.
“If my office were to ignore this clear statutory language and count ballots that were not properly witnessed, those absentee ballots could later be invalidated in a court challenge. It would be irresponsible for me to tell voters not to follow the witness requirement and risk their votes not counting.
“Like you, I care deeply about every Alaskan’s safety during this pandemic, and we have learned a lot over these past several months about how to best prevent spreading the virus. Just like going to the grocery store or receiving deliveries at your home, maintaining a social distance of six feet and wearing masks goes a long way and both of these can be accomplished for witnessing a ballot. Witnessing could also take place through a window if necessary. Although not ideal, we are all having to change the way we do things, and I would encourage voters to think creatively about how to fulfill this requirement in a safe manner.”
The group had demanded a response from the lieutenant governor by Friday, and received the response in the afternoon that day.
“We are prepared to use every tool in our arsenal to beat back unnecessary barriers to absentee voting faced by voters in Alaska, including restrictive witness requirements,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.