CASH FOR VOTES IN RURAL ALASKA
The Native village with the highest increase in voter turnout will receive a prize of $10,000 for its school from the First Alaskans Institute. European-heritage settlements need not apply.
That is according to an Alaska Native who works at the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, although no announcement has been made by the First Alaskans Institute on the organization’s website.
Three members of the Walker Administration sit on the 10-member board of the Institute: Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, Al Kookesh, a special assistant to the governor, and Valerie Davison, commissioner of Health and Social Services. Elizabeth Medicine Crow is the CEO and president.
The second highest turnout will receive $5,000. Both checks would go to the local school.
“Youth in villages- tell your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to go vote on November 6!! Parents, get out and vote so your school kids may benefit from this money!! Even if you don’t have school kids, get out and vote for the sake of the school! Get the money!!” Donna Bach wrote on Facebook.
While paying for votes is illegal, there appears to be no law against incentivizing an entire community to vote, although paying a village, or funneling money to the village school is a new concept in “get out the vote” tactics.
If Mark Begich, who is running for governor, ran a raffle for a million dollars for registered Democrats, would the State allow it? Unlikely.
But where it gets into the stickiest territory is that Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott is on the board of trustees for First Alaskans Institute, while at the same time is in charge of the Division of Elections.
Mallott, a Democrat, has an obvious stake in his own re-election. He cannot assert with a straight face that higher turnout in villages won’t benefit him.
Rural areas are least likely to vote Republican and have the least familiarity with Republican Mike Dunleavy, who will be on the ballot as well.
The Institute is the prime sponsor of this week’s AFN Conferences’ Elders and Youth Conference at the Dena’ina Center, which is underway through Wednesday.
Donna Bach, who broadcast the news of the village voting incentive on Facebook, is the director of Alaska Native Affairs at Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, which is also under the direction of the Governor’s Office. The news has since been shared by more than 100 Facebook users.