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.
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.