Alaska tribes and advocacy groups file lawsuit over rejected ballots

An Alaska Native tribe, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, the Native American Rights Fund and an international law firm filed a lawsuit in Alaska Superior Court on Tuesday against the Alaska Division of Elections. Alaska and officials for ignoring flawed ballots without giving voters time to correct minor deficiencies.

The lawsuit noted that “7,468 Alaska voters were disenfranchised and had their mail-in votes counted” for “ballot envelope defects that could have been corrected had defendants informed voters in a timely manner”.

Errors with the ballots included: inappropriate or insufficient testimonials, failure to provide a voter ID or voter ID not matching voter records, or missing voter signature. the reader.

“Instead of informing voters of these common errors while there was still time to correct them – before the vote count was finalized – the Elections Division only informed voters of rejected ballots. after certification of the elections,” the complaint reads.

Notably, Alaska Native voters were perhaps the most disenfranchised; in areas of the state with higher percentages of Alaska Native voters, rejection rates were significantly higher, the complaint notes.

In one polling area, which encompasses Bethel and Lower Kuskokwim, Alaska Natives make up more than 80% of the total population – according to the 2020 census – but more than 16% of that region’s votes were disqualified.

Twenty-four states require election officials to notify voters when there is a missing signature or signature anomaly — and require voters to be given the opportunity to correct it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

On July 19, the NARF and ACLU of Alaska sent a letter to Alaska Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer and Elections Division Director Gail Fenumiai, asking them to develop a plan to ensure that all Alaskans’ votes count by providing voters with timely notice to remedy to rejected ballots.

“Every vote counts, and the state could take the lead on any of the many other states that have already put in place measures to address treatable issues instead of throwing out votes,” the attorney for the NARF, Megan Condon, in a statement. “Without changes to the current system, the state may continue to reject large numbers of votes cast by Alaska Natives and rural voters.”

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About the Author

Jenna Kunze
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Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter who covers Indian health, environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the publication’s senior reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. His bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine and Anchorage Daily News. In 2020, she was one of 16 American journalists selected by the Pulitzer Center to report on the effects of climate change in the Arctic region of Alaska. Previously, she was a senior reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska. Kunze is based in New York.

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