Alaska’s upcoming primary will be the first statewide election allowing universal mail-in ballots. State election officials have decided not to require signature verification, raising new concerns about the election integrity in the state.
The primary will be held on June 11 to determine the contestants for Alaska’s single seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat is now open as a result of the passing of Republican Rep. Don Young last month. Young had held the seat since 1973, successfully running for reelection 24 times.
The top four candidates in the primary will move on to a general election on August 16. The primary for the general election in November for the next full term in the House will be held the same day. The general election for the remainder of Rep. Young’s term will be the first using Alaska’s new ranked-choice election system.
Republican former governor and U.S, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has announced for the special primary election in June and is expected to run for the next full term up for grabs in the November general election.
The Alaska Division of Elections issued a statement on March 25 that confirmed its position that there is “no statutory authority to verify signatures” but it will require witness signatures on mail-in ballots. The office plans to send a ballot by USPS to the registered address for the 586,000 registered voters in the state.
Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer is charged with overseeing elections. He said that he decided after consulting with Election Division Director Gail Fenumiai that vote-by-mail was the only realistic option available to schedule the special primary election in June for the unexpired term of Rep. Young.
Meyer said that the short time frame would overly complicate in-person voting as there are still lawsuits pending to determine new state legislative districts. As a result, some voters do not know for certain what district they will be in or if their in-person voting locations may change. He also said that it would have been difficult to recruit enough poll workers to pull off a fully in-person election in June.
Voters will be allowed to vote in the June primary in person at regional Division of Elections offices, but most normal polling places will be closed.
The special general election and the normal primary elections set for August 16 will be conducted in the normal in-person manner.
Alaska Watchman editor Joel Davidson wrote that because of Alaska’s “bloated voter registration rolls” it is certain that several thousand ballots will be mailed to outdated addresses. He added that there are “tens of thousands” of voters on official rolls who have either moved out of state or died.
Although there have been several bills introduced to require signature verification and to eliminate other integrity risks in elections, none have been enacted.