By KIM JARRETT | THE CENTER SQUARE
Officials with the Alaska Law Department say they have “serious concerns” about the timing of a lawsuit challenging Saturday’s special congressional election.
The Alaska State Commission on Human Rights is suing Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer and the Alaska Division of Elections over the mail-only election on behalf of a visually-impaired voter identified as “B.L.”
“B.L. filed a complaint with ASCHR on May 15, 2022, alleging that the ballot is not accessible to a visually impaired individual and that the DOE is engaging in discrimination on the basis of a disability based on its failure to provide accessible ballots or voting machines throughout the state, denying B.L and similarly-situated voters equal access to its services,” the lawsuit states. “Despite several meetings with ASCHR before and after the filing of B.L.’s ASCHR complaint over the lack of reasonable accommodations for visually impaired voters over the course of the last several weeks, the DOE does not plan to place touch screen voting machines at more than five locations throughout the State.”
The plaintiffs are asking elections officials not to certify the election “until such time as visually impaired Alaska voters are given a full and fair opportunity to participate in such election.”
A spokeswoman with the Department of Law said the office is still reviewing the lawsuit.
“The Division of Elections has serious concerns about the timing of this lawsuit and will ask that the court not upset the constitutionally and statutorily required special election, for which ballots were sent out over a month ago,” said Patty Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Law in an emailed statement. “These issues could have been raised much earlier, and the Division has not done anything differently than what it has done in the past for absentee voting. We are hopeful the court will agree.”
The Division of Elections “has systems in place to help all voters exercise their right to vote, even in a mail-in election.” Sullivan said
“A voter can get the assistance of a trusted person to complete the ballot received in the mail in the comfort of their own home,” Sullivan said. “Election workers can help voters with their ballots at any absentee-in-person location or division office. Or voters can fill out a ballot privately online using their own computer or tablet set to their own specifications. And, at division regional offices, tablets are available to fill out the ballot digitally for those who need it.”
Forty-eight candidates are vying to serve the remaining four months of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term. Ballots must be postmarked by Saturday. More than 121,000 ballots had been received back at the Division of Elections as of Thursday.
The top four vote-getters will advance to a runoff held during the Aug. 16 primary.