Cash for votes in Bristol Bay


Voters of the Bristol Bay region have a cash incentive to get out and vote — a consortium of 15 tribes known as the United Tribes of Bristol Bay is offering $20,000 to communities in the region that have the highest turnout and most-improved turnout in the Nov. 8 election, compared with 2018. The money will either go to the village’s school or to the tribe to support cultural programming.

Although it has the appearance of vote-buying, the cash isn’t pertaining to voting for a particular candidate and the money doesn’t go directly to individuals. U.S. law makes it illegal to offer or “make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate,” or solicit, accept, or receive such an expenditure “in consideration of his vote or the withholding of his vote.” Violations of this law are subject to fine and imprisonment. State law is less clear.

The communities in the region, however, may be influenced by the prize enough to commit ballot harvesting or illegal voting. For some communities, such as Ekwok, with its registered voting base of 75, or Clark’s Point, with its 45 voters, could do very well, and the cash would likely just be passed through to families or individuals of the village as bonuses, with no oversight.

Such a cash-for-vote scheme is not unusual in rural Alaska. In 1994, the North Slope Borough reimbursed voters for 10 gallons of gasoline if they voted, but the judge said it wasn’t a violation of state election law to pay people to vote, even though the gas reimbursement was specified for Natives only. In addition, a postcard sent to Doyon Limited shareholders offered entry into a $1,0000 cash prize drawing to those who submitted proof of voting, and the postcard mentioned that the Alaska Federation of Natives overwhelmingly endorsed Democrat Tony Knowles for governor.

A complaint was filed that year over those actions but was dismissed by the judge after the election was over and Knowles had eeked out a win. The difference between Knowles’ votes, 87,693, and Republican Jim Campbell’s votes, 87,157, was 536 votes. Jack Coghill of the Alaskan Independence Party was the spoiler that year for Republicans, getting 39,331 votes and handing Knowles the win.

United Tribes of Bristol Bay is a Tribal consortium of 15 federally recognized Tribes in Bristol Bay, representing over 80 percent of the region’s population.

“Bristol Bay Tribes founded UTBB in 2013 after recognizing the need for a united voice in our longtime efforts to protect our way of life,” the group explains on its website. UTBB works in partnership with the Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit firm that defends the rights of tribes and Native Americans nationwide.

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay members include: Togiak Traditional Council, Twin Hills Village Council, Manokotak Village Council, Curyung Tribal Council, Ekuk Village Council, Clark’s Point Village Council, Aleknagik Traditional Council, Portage Creek Village Council, New Stuyahok Traditional Council, New Koliganek Village Council, Levelock Village Council, Nondalton Village Council, Pilot Point Tribal Council, Pedro Bay Village Council and Chignik Lake Tribal Council.


  1. Just imagine how much money the democrats have stolen from us. Mary is in DC, are we fools voters, or is it dominion voting systems or Lisa’s rank choice idea. Look at what the democrats done to us all, only a evil clown could vote democrat, Jesus expects us to back his kind. Let’s get off elm street stop the democrats nightmare.

  2. If they have money to burn then they should not get any fuel Subsidies from the state as it looks like the 15 unintended tribes are rich enough to play vote and get a reward.

    • Why are you angry that they get fuel subsidies? Just because the native corporation is rich doesn’t mean that the individual people in The villages are. I know of a woman that has five kids and struggles to clothe and feed them. Sometimes the school food is all they get to eat. Many rely on fuel to stay warm and be able to go hunting. This sounds like just another racist remark from people not in the know.

      • Well maybe they need to look at their corporation leaders to loosen up the purse strings, versus looking to the State and Feds to care for their needs. They choose to live the village life. Guess you think it’s ok when Lisa comes through with some money for them or bends on an issue come election time. Pretty much the same form of purchasing votes.

  3. Where oh where are these Tribes getting the moolah to do this? Bingo parlors? Wait, didn’t those get closed during Covid?

    • More than 220 Alaska tribes got direct payments from both coronavirus bills. The average allocation was nearly $8 million, and every tribe got at least $2.6 million, even the 18 Alaska tribes who have fewer than 100 member. Two tribes really stood out: one in Alaska and one in California. They each reported having just three members and got around $3 million from the two coronavirus bills.

      One of those was Telida, in Interior Alaska. Telida Chief Steven Nikolai Sr. put the size of the tribe somewhat higher. He said Telida has “about five” members. That still leaves Telida with more than $500,000 per tribal member.

    • You must have missed native corporation 101 when you got off the plane and Anchorage. Tribal councils rely on native corporations for a lot of their money. Native corporations have millions of dollars from investments and login, mining fishing etc. It’s just big papa looking after his children.

  4. Disgusting. How lazy people are they would need to be offered money to vote? And agree with a few comments above – where is this money coming from – ultimately? We desperately need a constitutional convention to bring some sanity back into our state.

    • They’re not too lazy to vote. Any village I’ve ever been in which it is five now and counting, the voting place was a busy happening on election Day. They may strive to get 100% voting, but I believe there was always a huge turnout. But to call people lazy is being a bit presumptuous on your racist part.

  5. Only a few days left before the bait and switch program ends and fuel prices go nuts again. Fill your tanks while you can.

  6. The . Native corporations been
    practicing this voter incentive. Like the state of alaska has a low
    voter participation there also a low shareholder number sending proxys. So maybe if prizes or cash is offered maybe more shareholders would return proxys.
    The Natives who do play the gamble game its fun for them hoping they win or someone they know won and gives a good community feeling.

    • The native people of Alaska are not stupid. They know that most of the corporations only dole out a small portion of their profit to keep the status quo and keep the shareholders happy. This will be their downfall, thinking that they can influence an election by offering an incentive to vote. They are assuming that they will vote for more of the same, instead of responsible resource development on their lands that would make them wealthy, and self sustainable.

  7. This incentive is absolutely filthy disgusting.

    Apparently there’s no class, tact or appreciation for anyone whomever fought in a war for our rights to vote.

    I hope the women of Bristol Bay, especially, turn out to vote Republican (RANK the RED) and then choose to donate their incentivized voting cash to their favorite Republican candidate.

    Now we know that the Alaska native corps are doing more than just giving away target gift cards and fuel gift cards to their tribal members with all that Covid relief money. Of course this money is dirty Biden money… of course it is.

  8. Im designing a new lotto for all Alaskans to play. You vote, you enter a chance for $1m.

    I buy an insurance contract paid for by donors. It pays the lottery odds and the premium payment comes from political contributions.

    Which ever party pays more gets more.

    Now. Is that right? And how is that dufferent fron what “United” has done?

    Im gonna be rich.

  9. Shades of the incentive paid to turn out voters in the Bush to vote for Knowles in the 1994 gubernatorial election. The old dirty tricks are the best dirty tricks. Cheers –

  10. Does not matter whether this is supporting a particular party, or is non-partisan.
    If people are not interested enough to vote on their own, I want them to stay home on election day. Uninformed voters are the worst.
    If you are taking the effort to vote, that means you are at a minimum, interested enough in the outcome to have a modicum of information about the candidates. But, if you are only voting because your village may get a $20K payout, you are going to vote for a candidate for BS reasons. Like, I see more signs, or I recognize the name, or this attack ad said something I do not like.
    I do not want to see more voters.
    I want to see better informed voters.

  11. I wonder why you decided to write this article like you did, perhaps racism is a part of it, like you did in your article I will make assumptions. I think it’s a great thing to do all we can to get the voter turnout numbers a lot higher than they are now. I’m puzzled no law is being broken that I know of and if it was not a native organization involved would you take the time to write about an organization doing all they can to raise voter turnout?

    • It’s just news in this election season. Don’t read anymore into it than there is. I know of most village council meeting that give out nice door prizes to folks that show up. You must be present to win. It’s just a way to get folks to show up or vote or whatever.

  12. Following the coming election the legislative circle-jerks will “excite” themselves, so dig out your “Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure” and get ready to follow the tragicomedy performances act by act, brought to you at your expense! The public servants will be working to chisel and cheat their way into better paying positions and nicer digs! As the legislators have often said: “Bend over, we’re going into session!”

  13. How is this different from Zuckerberg donating millions for an election where most if it helped the Democrats. No difference. Who is policing this election?

  14. It sure as s*** is vote buying. Go to some of these village polling places and if you could be a fly on the wall you’d see “workers” filling in ballots for people.

    • Now, don’t that just frost up your crotch? I can’t blame Sarah for going east where “society” beats our local weed! She just fluffed herself up and sashayed right out of the valley–life is tough enough without having to listen to all the mindless crap! And winter is coming on! Boo-hoo, yahoo!

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