Alaska has put in place some procedures that make voting more accessible for many of its residents, such as early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. Yet more can be done to ensure that Native Alaskans have access to voting. In Alaska, the Native-eligible voter population is over 17%. Alaska Native voters face unique obstacles to voting, which has led to Alaska Native registered voters turning out at five to fourteen percent below other racial and ethnic groups. In March 2019, the Native American Voting Rights Act of 2019 was introduced through bicameral legislation in the U.S Congress. This legislation would remove barriers for indigenous people when registering to vote and would expand opportunities for participation in the voting process. Alaska’s representatives at the state and federal level should push for voting protections for Native Alaskans.

This legislative session, Republican Senator Mike Shower introduced legislation to purportedly address election integrity. However, the bill would eliminate automatic voter registration for individuals who apply for Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend and instead would require individuals to fill out more paperwork in order to register. Any measure to make it harder to register to vote is a threat to voter participation.

Democratic Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins introduced a bill (HB 150) that would bring vote-by-mail to Alaska. Vote-by-mail has grown in popularity across the country and makes voting more accessible to eligible voters. Democratic legislators also introduced bills (SB 105HB 115) to expand absentee voting. These bills did not advance this session, but we hope they will gain support in the future.

Finally, Republican Senator Jim McClendon proposed an amendment to the Alabama Constitution that would exempt redistricting bills from being read in full prior to passage. Any guesses why a GOP legislator is attempting to make the redistricting process less transparent?

Finally, Alaska’s November 2018 state elections showed why every vote matters. The one-vote win by Republican Bart Lebon in an Alaska state House race ultimately led to the GOP controlling the House, Senate, and governor’s office. The election came down to whether the voting rights of an individual with a felony record had been restored. It turned out the voter had been automatically registered to vote when he applied for his Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. Automatic registration matters, re-enfranchisement matters, and every vote matters.