By BRYAN SCORESBY
Alaska elections have become the laughing stock of elections throughout the country right now. I have been in Alaska for only 30 years, missed one Matanuska-Susitna Borough election I can remember, always voted in person, and only twice voted early. I have no experience with voting absentee and the difficulties that those who vote that way have experienced. I am glad there is technology available so their votes are counted.
Remember back in the day when we used to stay up late on election night watching “Election Central” on TV. Candidates and supporters alike would come in and cheer for their candidate when they were interviewed by the hosts in front of the TV camera. Candidates from both political parties were there with their supporters. The TV station would keep the audience updated as counts came in from precincts all over the state. By morning, we could read in the newspaper who had won, as all counting was completed, with very, very few exceptions.
Then came technology. Technology was supposed to make us more confident in the integrity of the election. We were told that elections would be improved, counting would be more accurate, faster and the computer would take fewer people they said. Don’t think it worked.
I worked in a precinct two years ago, both in primary and general election. Took about an hour to set up and a couple hours to take down the equipment, reconcile all the ballot books against the ballots cast, double and triple check the accuracy of the ballot count. It was an honor to work the polls that year and do recommend that all able citizens take a turn and volunteer.
Casting a ballot is a privilege, honor and rite as citizens that American’s hold dear. I want all voters to participate (sadly only 40.7% did) in the midterm election) and all votes to be counted. Individual circumstances vary. Is it too much to ask for Division of Elections to keep a register for absentee requests and mail ballots out, soon as they arrive from the printer. Then voters could send their ballots back earlier to ensure they get counted.
Timeline from this past election from Div. of Elections web site:
- October 14. Target date for first mailing of absentee by-mail ballots to civilian voters
- October 29. Absentee By-Mail Request Deadline
- November 7. Deadline to receive absentee by electronic transmission ballot applications
- November 8. Election Day. Deadline for absentee ballots to be postmarked. Deadline for ballots returned by electronic transmission ballots to be received
- November 18. Deadline to receive absentee ballots mailed from within the U.S. and U.S. territories
- November 23. Deadline to receive by-mail ballots, mailed from overseas addresses
My suggestions for Legislative and Division of Elections changes.
- Move up the deadline to receive mail in ballots to Election Day, not postmarked
- Keep a register for voters who request absentee ballots
- Change the last day to request an absentee ballot to first day ballots available like Oct. 14)
- Utilize some new technology so voting can be done remote to avoid mail delays. MEA does it
- Change the last day to vote early to the Friday before Election Day
- Count early votes on Election Day, just like the precinct does
- Process absentee ballots upon receipt and count on election day
- Keep early and absentee ballot counts secret till after polls close on Election Day
- Count all ballots cast on Election night and announce results
- Cleanup voter rolls. 2021 census has 550,189 adults of voting age. Elections have 601,795 eligible voters
The Division of Elections web site has a wonderful mission statement to “ensure public confidence in the electoral process” with goals and explanations of how they insure integrity in our election. This writer does not share that confidence and many of my friends have expressed to me their lack of confidence.
My son was out of state for college and still on the rolls for all 10 years he was out of state. He did not vote an absentee ballot in Alaska, did not apply for a PFD, did not get a resident fishing license. He did get a new driver’s license in another state and voted there. I told him several times he was still registered to vote in Alaska as his name was next to mine on the register.
I call on the Legislature and Division of Elections to fix and clean up the broken parts of our election system now by tightening a few rules. These 10 steps along and debate among interested citizens will identify all weaknesses. I want all eligible voters to vote and all valid ballots counted quickly.
For my fellow citizens who plan to be out of state, request early. Make your actions show you want your ballot to count. Use the electronic system and avoid any mail delay or hurry your ballot back by overnight mail. I read somewhere that some 1,500 Alaskans voted an electronic ballot this year. I applaud those who do and did.
One of our United States furthest from Alaska had a counting event in the 2000 election with hanging chads that became the focus of all America and the world to hand count their key punch ballots. Elected officials there determined to never have that much focus on their elections again. Simple legislative changes were enacted. This year that state counted 7.5 million ballots in about 5 hours and announced results on election night! Novel idea, isn’t it.
Surely if another state can count 7.5 million in five hours, Alaskans can count 250,000 ballots in a couple hours. I call on all resident Alaskans to write and call your elected representatives now. Talk to them about fixing our election issues. Make your own list to expose the weaknesses in the current process. Share it with legislators to encourage them find the will to fix the negative elections. Don’t wait till the 2023 legislative session starts, write and call now.
Bryan Scoresby lives in Palmer, Alaska