In 2022, Alaska Division of Elections cut ballot access to military at JBER. Will it repeat in 2024?

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Just before the 2022 primary election, the Alaska Division of Elections cut in half the number of polling places available to military families on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Instead of two places to vote, there was only one, and they were seven miles apart.

It is akin to an Anchorage voter having to drive from Dimond Blvd. in south Anchorage all the way to City Hall in downtown in order to vote.

Now, activists in Anchorage are trying to get the second polling place put back in place to prevent voter suppression of military members by the Division of Elections.

Although the closing of one of the polling locations was protested by one retired military member, the Division said it could not reverse its decision, Must Read Alaska sources said.

On Tuesday, Anchorage political activist and former Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich met with a representative from the Division of Elections to discuss returning a polling location to the Orion Elementary School, which is on the Elmendorf side of the joint base. As of this writing, there is no polling location planned for that former site.

Election watchdogs argue that one polling place on base is inadequate.

“Thirty-seven precinct polling locations in District 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21 and 22, as well as the other three District 18 precinct polling locations are geographically closer to the JBER Elmendorf side voters than their current Precinct 18-555 polling location at Ursa Minor Elementary School. No other Anchorage voters north of Tudor Road are required to travel two miles to cast their ballot. The 14.5 mile JBER’s Elmendorf side to Ursa Minor Elementary round-trip drive time for on-duty military personnel exceeds 30 minutes,” said Ruedrich.

Activists noted that military Election Day turnout has historically been low, but military and non-military organizations have been working diligently to increase voter turnout on Alaska’s bases.

“The Division of Elections decision pulls the rug out from under those patriotic efforts and sends the wrong message to Anchorage’s military community.  Why should they believe that their vote matters when the State of Alaska cuts their opportunity to vote in half?” Ruedrich commented.

“The Division of Elections needs to recreate a regular precinct with its own unique voter roll for zip code 99506 for the Elmendorf side residents to vote at Orion Elementary and maintain the second precinct with its own unique voter roll for zip code 99505 for the Fort Richardson side residents to vote at Ursa Minor Elementary School,” he said.

Rep. Jamie Allard of Eagle River agrees.

“Disenfranchising Alaska military the opportunity to vote in a polling placed located on JBER is a complete lack of understanding of what our military do, their way of life, and the limited personal time they actually have,” said Rep. Allard, who has many military members living in her district. “With the demanding working hours, our military members and families deserve to have the flexibility and a logical location near where they live. We must do better and help with a better quality of life for our military members and their families.”

Ruedrich is asking Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom to restore the JBER Elmendorf precinct for the 2024 Primary and General Elections, but sources close to the Division of Elections told Must Read Alaska that no such plans are under way.

JBER has over 32,000 service members, civilians, and family members, according to the U.S. Military.

By combining voters into one precinct, some believe that career bureaucrats are trying to suppress the military vote.

The turnout results from two gubernatorial election years show the possible problem (skipping over the 2020 presidential election, as military members vote in greater numbers in those years):

2018 turnout at JBER

Registered voters: JBER 1 – 4,138; JBER 2 – 2,957

Total registered voters – 7,095 

Votes cast: JBER 1 – 444  10.37%; JBER 2 – 218  7.37%;

Total votes cast – 662 for a 9.33% turnout

2022 turnout at JBER with combined precinct polling to one location

Registered voters: 7,612

Total votes cast: 483 for a 6.5% turnout

10 COMMENTS

  1. Nancy Dahlstrom wants to move to congress? She’s shooting herself in the foot passively allowing for the military vote suppression and not responding in appropriate capacity to this disenfranchisement of service members.

  2. A 30% reduction in voter turnout isn’t voter suppression or disenfranchisement, it’s how elections are won!

  3. A woke military and Western Ak is Blue. Those are both contributing factors to our States dysfunction. We support the R for president (although 49% of alaskans voted for biden) in almost all elections. However state elections we fail. Libs in Anch, Fairbanks and the native population are voting blue. Ruining the state. Zero empathy for anyone supporting D platform or candidate.

  4. Suzanne: Perhaps a correction is in order?

    “Instead of two places to vote, there was only one, and they were seven miles apart.”

  5. Personally, I don’t think much of allowing military members to register to vote in this state just because they are currently stationed here. The vast majority have no intention of remaining here after that two year tour is up.

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