Legislature(2023 - 2024)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

01/26/2023 03:30 PM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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Audio Topic
03:31:16 PM Start
03:32:11 PM Presentation(s): Division of Elections 2022 Elections Recap
04:27:29 PM Presentation(s): Get out the Native Vote.
04:45:18 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Teleconferenced --
+ Presentation: 2022 Elections Recap by TELECONFERENCED
Michaela Thompson (Acting Director, Division of
Julie Husmann (Regional Supervisor, Division of
Carol Thompson (Division Operations Manager,
Division of Elections)
Presentation: 2022 Elections Recap/Rural Voting
Challenges by
Michelle (Macuar) Sparck (Director of Strategic
Initiatives, Cook Inlet Tribal Council:
Get Out the Native Vote)
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
            SENATE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                        January 26, 2023                                                                                        
                           3:31 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Scott Kawasaki, Chair                                                                                                   
Senator Matt Claman, Vice Chair                                                                                                 
Senator Jesse Bjorkman                                                                                                          
Senator Kelly Merrick                                                                                                           
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Bill Wielechowski                                                                                                       
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
PRESENTATION(S):  2022 Elections Recap from the Division of                                                                     
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PRESENTATION(S):  Get Out The Native Vote.                                                                                      
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
MICHAELA THOMPSON, Acting Director                                                                                              
Division of Elections                                                                                                           
Office of the Lieutenant Governor                                                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Delivered a presentation recapping the 2022                                                               
MICHELLE (MACUAR) SPARCK, Director of Strategic Initiatives                                                                     
Get Out The Native Vote                                                                                                         
Bethel, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Delivered the Get Out The Native Vote                                                                     
JULIE HUSMANN, Region V Elections Supervisor                                                                                    
Division of Elections                                                                                                           
Office of the Lieutenant Governor                                                                                               
Wasilla, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Discussed the issues she  experienced during                                                             
the 2022 election.                                                                                                              
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
3:31:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SCOTT KAWASAKI  called the  Senate State  Affairs Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 3:31  p.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order  were   Senators  Claman,  Merrick,  Bjorkman,   and  Chair                                                               
^PRESENTATION(S): Division of elections 2022 Elections Recap                                                                    
   PRESENTATION(S):  DIVISION OF ELECTIONS 2022 ELECTIONS RECAP                                                             
3:32:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KAWASAKI  announced the presentation  from the  Division of                                                               
Elections recapping the 2022 election.                                                                                          
3:33:38 PM                                                                                                                    
MICHAELA  THOMPSON,  Acting   Director,  Division  of  Elections,                                                               
Office of  the Lieutenant Governor, Anchorage,  Alaska, delivered                                                               
a presentation recapping the 2022 elections.                                                                                    
MS.THOMPSON  displayed slide  2 and  reviewed the  challenges and                                                               
successes of the 2022 elections.                                                                                                
- The division successfully conducted four statewide elections                                                                  
     - The June Special Primary Election. This was conducted                                                                    
        entirely by mail and the division sent out over 500,000                                                                 
        by-mail ballots.                                                                                                        
     - The August Special General Election and the regular                                                                      
        Primary Election. These two elections were conducted on                                                                 
        the same day and on one ballot.                                                                                         
     - The regular November General Election                                                                                    
- To administer the 2022 elections, the division:                                                                               
     - Hired and trained in-office temporary workers                                                                            
     - Entered high volumes of data including the applications                                                                  
        transmitted from the permanent fund dividend automatic                                                                  
        voter registration process.                                                                                             
     - Processed absentee ballot application requests                                                                           
     - Recruited polling place locations and staff and conducted                                                                
     - Logic and accuracy tested all election tabulation                                                                        
        equipment statewide                                                                                                     
     - Organized shipping for the supplies and materials needed                                                                 
        in urban and rural locations                                                                                            
     - Monitored the return and organization of election                                                                        
     - Logged absentee and question ballots                                                                                     
     - Supervised the bipartisan Absentee and Question Review                                                                   
     - Conducted two recounts                                                                                                   
- Implemented the May Interim Redistricting Plan                                                                                
     - Updated voters and the voter database system to the                                                                      
        new precinct assignments                                                                                                
     - Created new precinct maps, including an interactive                                                                      
        map on the division's website                                                                                           
     - Mailed new voter cards to all registered voters                                                                          
- Implemented the nonpartisan pick-one primary system and                                                                       
   the Ranked Choice Voting general system                                                                                      
MS. THOMPSON  reported that  12 races went  to tabulation  in the                                                               
regular General Election.                                                                                                       
3:38:17 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KAWASAKI  asked if the  changes in the 2022  election cycle                                                               
would be implemented on a long-term basis.                                                                                      
MS.THOMPSON replied  that the interim plan  for redistricting has                                                               
the potential to  change, but the ranked-choice  voting (RCV) and                                                               
the nonpartisan top-four primary system  will be in place for the                                                               
2024  elections. The  elections  will be  reviewed and  evaluated                                                               
this year and that may affect future elections.                                                                                 
3:39:31 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BJORKMAN asked  if the  two recounts  were conducted  by                                                               
MS.THOMPSON  answered  no,  the   division  used  its  tabulation                                                               
SENATOR CLAMAN  referenced the requirement to  hand count certain                                                               
precincts within a district to  ensure accuracy. He asked whether                                                               
that  same  hand-count  accuracy  check  is  conducted  before  a                                                               
recount is done.                                                                                                                
MS.THOMPSON  advised that  the hand  count is  part of  the state                                                               
review process which is separate from a recount.                                                                                
3:40:44 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  THOMPSON displayed  slide 3  and reviewed  the changes  that                                                               
occurred from 19 AKBE.                                                                                                          
- Updated forms to reflect the new ranked-choice voting.                                                                        
        - Candidacy filing paperwork provided more information                                                                  
          about how to display political affiliation on the                                                                     
        - DOE created new posters for polling places as required                                                                
          by law.                                                                                                               
        - Polling place manuals and handbooks in election offices                                                               
          were updated to include information about the new                                                                     
          pick-one primary and RCV.                                                                                             
- The ballot design was  updated to include the required language                                                               
   about a candidate's political affiliation. Information was                                                                   
   also included about how to vote the RCV grid.                                                                                
- The election tabulation system was updated to reflect RCV.                                                                    
-  Voter  education and  outreach  were  enhanced with  in-person                                                               
   training and  informational  updates on  the  DOE website  and                                                               
   social media. Mock elections were included on the DOE website.                                                               
   In 2022, multiple instructional mailers in  English and Alaska                                                               
   Native languages were sent to all  households. There were also                                                               
   radio  and  TV  advertisements   about  RCV,  absentee-by-mail                                                               
   voting, and important dates.                                                                                                 
- For election  results, only the first choices  from the ballots                                                               
   were counted and tabulated on election night.                                                                                
        - DOE waited until the day 15 deadline to receive                                                                       
          absentee  overseas  ballots  and  then  DOE  determined                                                               
          which  races   needed  ranked-choice   tabulation.  The                                                               
          tabulation  process was  broadcast  on  KTOO so  voters                                                               
          could watch.                                                                                                          
3:44:34 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BJORKMAN said  he understood  DOE's  reasoning, but  the                                                               
public  was very  frustrated to  have to  wait so  long to  start                                                               
counting.  It didn't  make  sense to  his  constituents that  DOE                                                               
waited  two weeks  to start  doing any  tabulation when  it could                                                               
have been done  as the ballots came in and  were scanned into the                                                               
system. He asked if he misunderstood the process.                                                                               
MS. THOMPSON  confirmed that DOE  has to have the  images scanned                                                               
into  the  system  to  do   any  RCV  tabulation.  Those  weren't                                                               
available on election night for  rural precincts. DOE has to wait                                                               
for   those  ballots   to  arrive   at  the   elections  offices,                                                               
particularly  for  the hand  count  precincts,  and then  they're                                                               
scanned into the system, all of which takes time.                                                                               
SENATOR  BJORKMAN said  he  understands having  to  wait for  the                                                               
ballots to  come in, but  precincts on  the road system  can scan                                                               
the  ballots. He  asked if  it  was true  that DOE  could do  RCV                                                               
tabulation  on election  night for  those precincts  on the  road                                                               
system that can  scan the ballots. That way the  public could see                                                               
the results based on the ballots DOE had received.                                                                              
MS. THOMPSON said  she wasn't sure that tabulation  could be done                                                               
on election  night, but it  could be done  earlier. It was  a new                                                               
system and the decision to wait  was the choice that was made for                                                               
the 2022 elections.                                                                                                             
3:47:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KAWASAKI asked  if that would be a regulation  or if it was                                                               
just a DOE policy decision for the 2022 elections.                                                                              
MS. THOMPSON said she didn't  recall whether it was in regulation                                                               
but she would follow up with the answer.                                                                                        
CHAIR KAWASAKI made a formal request for the information.                                                                       
SENATOR CLAMAN asked  if there were any complaints  about the new                                                               
ballot design or lessons learned for the next election.                                                                         
MS. THOMPSON said the division  hasn't received much feedback but                                                               
the ballot design is always  reevaluated before any election. DOE                                                               
continually   uses  outside   resources  that   talk  about   the                                                               
readability of ballots and how to make it easier to vote.                                                                       
SENATOR CLAMAN  said he heard  accounts of people  spoiling their                                                               
ballots  by accidentally  filling in  the write-in  bubble, which                                                               
might  relate to  the design.  He  asked if  she'd heard  similar                                                               
MS. THOMPSON  replied that  she hadn't  heard those  reports, but                                                               
there were more  spoiled ballots than usual,  particularly in the                                                               
regular General Election, so DOE would look at that design.                                                                     
3:50:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR CLAMAN asked what DOE considers a spoiled ballot.                                                                       
MS. THOMPSON explained  that it's generally when a  voter makes a                                                               
mistake and asks for a new  ballot. The spoiled ballot is torn up                                                               
and placed in a spoiled ballot  envelope and the voter is given a                                                               
fresh ballot.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR KAWASAKI relayed  a personal story about  a spoiled ballot,                                                               
and asked if there  was a way to look at  the spoiled ballots and                                                               
determine what might need to  be changed for future elections. He                                                               
observed  that analyzing  the spoiled  ballots  from the  regular                                                               
General Election might be a good place to start.                                                                                
MS. THOMPSON said the division  would keep the suggestion in mind                                                               
as  it looks  for ways  to  improve the  design and  instructions                                                               
going forward.                                                                                                                  
3:52:33 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  THOMPSON  turned  to  slide 4  and  reported  the  following                                                               
statistics related to voter turnout:                                                                                            
        • June 11, 2022 Special Primary                                                                                         
          • Over 500,000 by-mail ballots sent                                                                                   
        • Voter Turnout  161,773 ballots cast (27.55%)                                                                          
        • August 16, 2022 ,Special General and Regular                                                                          
        • Voter Turnout  192,542 ballots cast (32.16%)                                                                          
        • November 8, 2022 ,Regular General Election                                                                            
        • Voter Turnout  267,047 ballots cast (44.38%)                                                                          
MS. THOMPSON  said there isn't  a comparable special  primary but                                                               
the  2018  August  special  General  Election  and  the  November                                                               
General Election races for governor  do provide one. She reported                                                               
the following:                                                                                                                  
- 2018 Primary Election                                                                                                         
   - 115,727 ballots were cast.                                                                                                 
   - Voter turnout was 20.24 percent.                                                                                           
- 2018 regular General Election                                                                                                 
   - 285,009 ballots were cast.                                                                                                 
   - Voter turnout was 49.84 percent                                                                                            
SENATOR CLAMAN  asked what the  turnout was for  the presidential                                                               
election in 2020.                                                                                                               
3:50:00 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. THOMPSON reported that 361,400  ballots were cast in the 2020                                                               
General Election, which was 6a 0.67 percent voter turnout.                                                                      
CHAIR KAWASAKI  mentioned the incidence  of ballot  rejections in                                                               
the 2022 election cycle because  of late postmarks. He noted that                                                               
the  procedure in  Fairbanks was  to stockpile  ballots and  then                                                               
send them in bulk to Anchorage  to be postmarked. As it happened,                                                               
Fairbanks had  a disproportionately large number  of ballots that                                                               
were rejected  specifically because  of late postmarks.  He asked                                                               
if there was a solution for that.                                                                                               
MS. THOMPSON  said one  solution is for  voters to  deliver their                                                               
ballots in  person to the  regional office in  Fairbanks. Another                                                               
solution that was  a recommendation before the  election, was for                                                               
voters  to take  their ballots  to the  post office  and have  it                                                               
hand-canceled  by  a  postal clerk  working  the  counter.  Those                                                               
ballots would  still be batched  and sent to Anchorage,  but they                                                               
would already have been postmarked  with the date the post office                                                               
received the ballot.                                                                                                            
CHAIR KAWASAKI asked about the  possibility of having ballot drop                                                               
boxes like DOE implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.                                                                        
MS. THOMPSON replied that DOE  borrowed those drop boxes from the                                                               
Municipality of Anchorage which is an all-by-mail jurisdictions.                                                                
3:59:08 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  THOMPSON  turned to  slide  5  and  relayed that  voting  on                                                               
Election  Day took  place at  401 polling  places throughout  the                                                               
state.  There  was  also some  absentee  in-person  balloting  at                                                               
regional offices,  airports, and  other locations  throughout the                                                               
state. She  noted that  15 days before  the General  Election DOE                                                               
opened about 165 absentee and early voting locations.                                                                           
She asked Julie Husmann, the  Region V supervisor, to speak about                                                               
her  experience on  Election Day  and that  night. She  explained                                                               
that regional supervisors oversee  the polling locations in their                                                               
regions. Region  V covers the  northern Kenai  Peninsula Borough,                                                               
the  MatSu  Borough,  Parks  Highway,   Valdez,  and  the  Denali                                                               
4:00:44 PM                                                                                                                    
JULIE  HUSMANN,  Region  V   Elections  Supervisor,  Division  of                                                               
Elections, Office  of the  Lieutenant Governor,  Wasilla, Alaska,                                                               
stated that Election Day 2022  was similar to past election days.                                                               
The regional office  had the same problems it  had encountered in                                                               
past elections. This included precincts  that didn't open on time                                                               
due  to elections  officials not  showing up;  election officials                                                               
arriving  late  to  set  up the  polling  place;  and  occasional                                                               
instances  of  ballots jamming  in  the  precinct scanner.  These                                                               
issues  were  all resolved  in  due  course. Field  workers  were                                                               
available  onsite to  resolve ballot  jamming  issues. She  noted                                                               
that  a power  outage  occurred 15-20  minutes  before the  polls                                                               
opened but it came back at 8:05 a.m.                                                                                            
MS.  HUSMANN   relayed  that   some  Kenai   Peninsula  precincts                                                               
encountered people  outside the  polling place entrance  who were                                                               
gathering  signatures  for  a local  petition.  The  people  left                                                               
quietly  when  they were  informed  that  they could  not  gather                                                               
signatures on site.  She said the largest difference  in the 2022                                                               
election was the number of  spoiled ballots. She attributed it to                                                               
voters being unfamiliar with RCV.  She explained that when voters                                                               
received an  error message when  they put their ballots  into the                                                               
precinct scanner, they  were given the option to  cast the ballot                                                               
or return the spoiled ballot and receive a new one.                                                                             
MS. HUSMANN opined that overall, Election Day 2022 went well.                                                                   
CHAIR KAWASAKI thanked her for her  work and noted that voters in                                                               
Fairbanks   experienced  the   same   difficulties.  His   office                                                               
investigated some  complaints but  concluded that  overall things                                                               
went fairly smoothly in the Fairbanks region.                                                                                   
4:04:00 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  THOMPSON  turned  to  slide  6  to  discuss  the  challenges                                                               
associated   with   rural   voting.  She   made   the   following                                                               
- DOE continued  to face issues in 2022,  particularly related to                                                               
   the logistics of shipping election materials to rural areas of                                                               
   the state  and  then  back to  the  regional  offices and  the                                                               
   director's office.                                                                                                           
- DOE  held weekly meetings  in 2022  with the US  Postal Service                                                               
   (USPS) to share shipping deadlines and to communicate concerns                                                               
   about certain  communities  potentially  not getting  election                                                               
   materials timely.                                                                                                            
- USPS  sent a list every  week that identified the  post offices                                                               
   that were either closed for the  week or experiencing staffing                                                               
   issues because there  wasn't a  full-time postmaster  at those                                                               
   locations. USPS also identified the locations  that would have                                                               
   a substitute postmaster for the week.                                                                                        
- Poll  worker recruitment  and longevity  is an  issue statewide                                                               
   but it is particularly problematic in rural areas.                                                                           
CHAIR KAWASAKI  asked whether DOE  had considered  using regional                                                               
airlines in locations that routinely have shipping problems.                                                                    
MS. THOMPSON  replied DOE  has utilized  charter airlines  to get                                                               
materials into certain locations, but  that's not a solution when                                                               
the weather is the issue.                                                                                                       
CHAIR  KAWASAKI   asked  if  the  division   had  considered  the                                                               
permanent  use of  ballot drop  boxes  on Election  Day in  rural                                                               
areas or at least rural hubs.                                                                                                   
MS.THOMPSON said that  has not been discussed, but  she wanted to                                                               
point out  that voters also have  the option of taking  their by-                                                               
mail ballot to  a polling station on Election  Day. Those ballots                                                               
would be seen as on time.                                                                                                       
SENATOR  CLAMAN suggested  DOE look  more carefully  at drop  box                                                               
options in rural communities that  have problems with post office                                                               
closures,  ballots not  being postmarked  on  time, and  language                                                               
access. He asked whether the  division had the flexibility to try                                                               
that in the next election.                                                                                                      
MS. THOMPSON  replied that it's  something to look into,  but the                                                               
division would need to check with  the Department of Law (DOL) to                                                               
discuss the  legality of  having drop  boxes in  those locations.                                                               
She also  pointed out that  people in rural locations  could drop                                                               
their  ballots  off with  the  absentee  voting official  in  the                                                               
community. Those ballots  would be returned to  the division when                                                               
the voting  materials are returned  and they would  be considered                                                               
received on time.                                                                                                               
4:08:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. THOMPSON displayed  slide 7 and advised that her  role in the                                                               
2022 election  cycle was to  oversee the absentee  voting process                                                               
and  program.  This  included  overseeing  sending  out  absentee                                                               
ballots  through the  US mail  and  electronic transmission.  She                                                               
explained that  all absentee ballots  are reviewed  by bipartisan                                                               
absentee  review boards  in each  regional  office. These  boards                                                               
review   all   absentee   ballot  envelopes   to   verify   voter                                                               
registration  status, eligibility,  and that  the voter  provided                                                               
the  required information  on the  outside of  the envelope.  The                                                               
statute  requires  voters  to  sign   the  envelope,  provide  an                                                               
identifier,  and  have   somebody  witness  absentee-by-mail  and                                                               
electronic transmission ballots. She  provided the following data                                                               
on rejected ballots for each election:                                                                                          
- For the  Special Primary Election, 7,544  ballots were rejected                                                               
   statewide. The rejection rate was 4.5 percent.                                                                               
-  For the  Special  General Election  and  Regular Primary,  554                                                               
   ballots were rejected statewide. The rejection rate was 2                                                                    
-  For  the  Regular  General Election  there  were  878  ballots                                                               
   rejected statewide. The rejection rate was 1.5 percent.                                                                      
- Common reasons for rejection  included improper or insufficient                                                               
  witnessing, ballot postmarked after Election Day, and voters                                                                  
   not signing the envelope.                                                                                                    
-  DOE reviewed  the  instructions after  the  elections and  has                                                               
   added more clear instructions.                                                                                               
     - Voters can ask a postal clerk to hand cancel their ballot                                                                
        before it goes into the system.                                                                                         
     - Voters are encouraged to vote and mail their ballots as                                                                  
        soon as possible after they receive the ballot.                                                                         
MS. THOMPSON  provided data from  the 2018 governor  election for                                                               
comparative purposes.                                                                                                           
- For the Primary Election, 450 ballots were rejected statewide.                                                                
-  For   the  General  Election,  1,204   ballots  were  rejected                                                               
- Half  the number  of people participated  in the  2018 election                                                               
than in the 2022 election.                                                                                                      
4:11:50 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KAWASAKI asked  if DOE  was  able to  review the  rejected                                                               
ballots to  determine whether the  people were qualified  to vote                                                               
and their ballots were rejected on a technicality.                                                                              
MS. THOMPSON explained  that when a rejected  ballot is returned,                                                               
elections staff logs the ballot into  the system and it's given a                                                               
count code.  In turn, those  envelopes go to the  Absentee Review                                                               
Board  where  they're examined  to  ensure  that the  ballot  was                                                               
rejected for  a valid reason.  The rejected ballots  are retained                                                               
for a  scheduled amount  of time. DOE  prepares reports  for each                                                               
election to show the number of rejected ballots and the reasons.                                                                
CHAIR KAWASAKI  asked if there was  a process to look  at whether                                                               
the person whose ballot was rejected was a qualified voter.                                                                     
MS. THOMPSON  replied that there  is no curing process  in Alaska                                                               
4:13:32 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KAWASAKI noted that the  committee might take up the matter                                                               
of ballot curing.                                                                                                               
SENATOR  CLAMAN asked  whether the  ballot rejection  percentages                                                               
were  from  absentee ballots  alone  or  the total  ballots  cast                                                               
MS. THOMPSON  answered that  the percentages  are from  the total                                                               
absentee ballots cast statewide.                                                                                                
SENATOR CLAMAN asked  whether DOE had drawn  any conclusions from                                                               
the large  number of rejected  ballots from  the all-vote-by-mail                                                               
special Primary Election compared to the next two elections.                                                                    
MS. THOMPSON  said she  didn't know  for sure  but the  fact that                                                               
this was the first time many  voters had voted an absentee ballot                                                               
likely was a factor.                                                                                                            
4:15:30 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. THOMPSON turned to slide 8  to discuss the State Review Board                                                               
audit process for each election.  She explained that a hand count                                                               
of five  percent of the  ballots cast from one  randomly selected                                                               
precinct  in   each  House  district   is  conducted   for  these                                                               
elections.  The  precinct  scanner  is  utilized.  The  board  is                                                               
looking for discrepancies of over  one percent. That didn't occur                                                               
in 2022  or any past  election. The materials that  were returned                                                               
from  the precincts  were verified.  Accountability reports  were                                                               
run from  the early  vote, absentee,  and questioned  ballots and                                                               
audited  by the  bipartisan  Audit Review  Board  in Juneau.  The                                                               
ballot  accountability   reports  from  polling   place  election                                                               
officials  are audited  for the  number of  ballots used  and the                                                               
number  of voters  that  signed the  precinct  register and  then                                                               
compared to the number of ballots  cast on the results tapes. The                                                               
board then  looks at the  result reported on election  night from                                                               
the polling  place results  tapes against  those reported  to the                                                               
director's office.                                                                                                              
The results  from the  hand-count precincts  are compared  to the                                                               
hand-count results  that were  entered on  election night  at the                                                               
director's office.  The accountability reports from  the regional                                                               
early  vote, absentee,  and questioned  bipartisan review  boards                                                               
are examined and  compared against the ballots  cast report. Then                                                               
the result  reports from the  regional counting boards  that scan                                                               
the absentee,  question, and early  vote ballots at  the regional                                                               
offices are  compared to the  results reported to  the director's                                                               
office. After a  review of the foregoing, the  State Review Board                                                               
certified the elections.                                                                                                        
4:17:40 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. THOMPSON  advanced to  slide 9  and highlighted  the language                                                               
assistance provisions DOE provided for the 2022 election cycle.                                                                 
-  DOE   provided  language  assistance  for   10  Alaska  Native                                                               
languages, Spanish, and Tagalog.                                                                                                
-  Throughout  2022,  DOE   maintained  a  three-member  Gwich'in                                                               
   translation panel.  Over 4,000  hours  were spent  translating                                                               
   election materials to the various languages.                                                                                 
     - Translations included instructions and new terms related                                                                 
        to RCV.                                                                                                                 
- DOE  advertised its language assistance  through public service                                                               
   and radio announcements.  This information  included candidacy                                                               
   filing  deadlines,  voter  registration   deadlines,  absentee                                                               
   voting accessibility assistance,  and Election Day  voting and                                                               
   language assistance.  This  translated  information  was  also                                                               
   mailed to communities. For  the special Primary  Election, the                                                               
   absentee  by-mail  ballot  instructions  were  translated  and                                                               
   mailed. Information on how  to fill out and  return the ballot                                                               
   was included.                                                                                                                
-  DOE's  voter outreach  in  2022  reached approximately  20,174                                                               
   households with translated  content. The typical  outreach was                                                               
   expanded to include translated videos and radio interviews.                                                                  
-  DOE  opted  to  directly mail  the  official  2022  translated                                                               
   election pamphlets to identified census  areas. The translated                                                               
   pamphlets were also posted on the DOE website.                                                                               
4:20:00 PM                                                                                                                    
-   DOE  actively   recruited  bilingual   outreach  workers   in                                                               
   communities. These individuals provide  language assistance to                                                               
   voters before Election Day through  small-group and community-                                                               
   wide meetings as well as on an individual basis. The bilingual                                                               
   outreach workers were either recommended by tribal councils or                                                               
   had worked  for  DOE in  previous  elections. Recruitment  and                                                               
   retention  of  bilingual  outreach  workers  was  particularly                                                               
- Bilingual poll workers are  recruited from within the community                                                               
   to help with  language assistance on  Election Day.  She noted                                                               
   that audio  was  also  available  on  tablets in  the  polling                                                               
CHAIR  KAWASAKI  asked how  DOE  decided  which households  would                                                               
receive the translated election pamphlets.                                                                                      
MS.  THOMPSON   explained  that  census  data   and  the  Toyukak                                                               
settlement indicate where language assistance is needed.                                                                        
SENATOR  CLAMAN  asked  whether  the  division  was  still  under                                                               
federal   court   supervision   regarding   language   assistance                                                               
requirements stemming from a lawsuit several years ago.                                                                         
MS. THOMPSON  confirmed that the  division still had to  meet the                                                               
stipulations in the [Toyukak  v. Dahlstrom] settlement agreement.                                                               
She  noted that  the  division also  prepares  court reports  for                                                               
those communities.                                                                                                              
SENATOR CLAMAN  requested she  send the committee  a copy  of the                                                               
court report.                                                                                                                   
MS. THOMPSON agreed.                                                                                                            
4:22:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  THOMPSON displayed  slide 10  and  discussed same-day  voter                                                               
- Alaska  statutes require a voter  to be registered for  30 days                                                               
   before Election Day, unless  it's a presidential  election. In                                                               
   that instance, an individual may vote a questioned ballot. The                                                               
   questioned ballot is returned  to the regional office  and the                                                               
   Question Ballot Review Board verifies that  the voter supplied                                                               
   the required  voter registration  information.  The ballot  is                                                               
   counted solely  for  the  presidential  race,  and  the  voter                                                               
   information is  added to  the voter  information database  for                                                               
   future elections.                                                                                                            
- There  is no  same-day registration  available for  the midterm                                                               
   elections. If the voter  were to vote a  questioned ballot, it                                                               
   would go  through  the question  ballot  process, but  nothing                                                               
   would be counted because the person was not registered 30 days                                                               
   before the  election. The  individual's  information from  the                                                               
  ballot envelope would be entered into the voter registration                                                                  
   database for future elections.                                                                                               
MS. THOMPSON highlighted  that a registered voter who  moves to a                                                               
different district  and fails to  update their  residence address                                                               
30  days before  the election  may  vote a  questioned ballot  at                                                               
their  new polling  location. The  Question  Ballot Review  Board                                                               
would  compare  the  previous  address and  the  new  address  to                                                               
determine  which  parts  of  the ballot  could  be  counted.  She                                                               
provided examples.                                                                                                              
4:25:08 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MERRICK asked  who  has  access to  the  tapes from  the                                                               
precincts and how  they might be leaked because  she saw bloggers                                                               
produce copies  of those tapes  before the official  results were                                                               
released on the division's website.                                                                                             
MS. THOMPSON  answered that poll  watchers may request a  copy of                                                               
the  tape  when the  polls  close  and  there is  no  prohibition                                                               
against sharing that information.                                                                                               
CHAIR KAWASAKI thanked her for  the presentation and advised that                                                               
the  conversation  about how  to  make  elections better  in  the                                                               
future would continue.                                                                                                          
^PRESENTATION(S):  Get Out The Native Vote.                                                                                     
            PRESENTATION(S):  Get Out The Native Vote.                                                                      
4:27:29 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KAWASAKI announced  the presentation  Get  Out The  Native                                                               
4:27:56 PM                                                                                                                    
MICHELLE (MACUAR) SPARCK, Director  of Strategic Initiatives, Get                                                               
Out The  Native Vote  (GOTNV), Bethel,  Alaska, advised  that she                                                               
sent her full written testimony  to the committee for the record.                                                               
[The  full testimony  is  posted  on BASIS.]  It  fills gaps  and                                                               
addresses things that were missing  in the Division of Elections'                                                               
MS.  SPARCK stated  that as  a baseline,  GOTNV applies  the term                                                               
"rural" to House  districts 36-40. This is  the Interior, Bristol                                                               
Bay, the  Bethel area, the  Nome area,  and the Arctic  area, but                                                               
GOTNV  also  studies  Southeast,  Kodiak,  Cook  Inlet  and  CIRI                                                               
tribes,  and any  area  with a  recognized  tribe or  shareholder                                                               
base. The area is large but the population is relatively small.                                                                 
MS. SPARCK paraphrased the following passages of her testimony:                                                                 
     It  was  a  massive  undertaking to  help  prepare  and                                                                    
     inform the public for three  statewide elections in six                                                                    
     months, especially  with new election law  in place. We                                                                    
     witnessed a new gold  rush of candidates populating the                                                                    
     open  primaries, overwhelming  voters  with dozens  and                                                                    
     dozens of  options for  one office  alone. We  also had                                                                    
     our work cut  out for us in having  to help distinguish                                                                    
     the  difference  between  a  pick-one  primary  from  a                                                                    
     Ranked Choice Voting general ballot.                                                                                       
     Alaska voters  also saw  greater competition  under the                                                                    
     new  rules  among  the  59  legislative  races  on  the                                                                    
     ballot.  Twenty-two legislative  contests had  three or                                                                    
     more candidates, with  roughly 200 candidates competing                                                                    
     for legislative  offices at once, and  that didn't even                                                                    
     factor   in  the   yes  or   no   decisions  over   the                                                                    
     Constitutional  Convention, or  a number  of seats  for                                                                    
     Alaskan judges.                                                                                                            
     Institutional Support                                                                                                    
     We could not have been  very effective in our work were                                                                    
     it  not for  Lt.  Governor Meyer  and  the Division  of                                                                    
     Elections Director  Gail Fenumiai engaging us  in their                                                                    
     process. Such  transparency enabled us to  be a partner                                                                    
     in  troubleshooting  problems  that  often  plague  the                                                                    
     system, and  invariably create  barriers to  voting for                                                                    
     Native  and  rural  communities.  We'd  like  to  thank                                                                    
     public relations  manager Tiffany  Montemayor, Samantha                                                                    
     Mack on  compliance for Elections  Language Assistance,                                                                    
     Elections  Supervisor  of  Region  IV,  Shannon  (Rena)                                                                    
     Greene  of Nome,  and  Melissa  Medeiros, the  customer                                                                    
     relations  manager  for  the  Alaska  District  of  the                                                                    
     United States Postal Service  for helping us understand                                                                    
     what we were facing prior to each election last year.                                                                      
     It  is  important  to point  out  that  Alaska's  voter                                                                    
     registration  and  ability  to  vote  via  absentee  is                                                                    
     probably  one of  the most  accessible and  enviable of                                                                    
     all 50 states. The ease  of the automatic PFD and State                                                                    
     ID or Driver's License  voter registration process is a                                                                    
     building block  rather than a barrier  to elections. We                                                                    
     sympathize with our Tribal  counterparts in other areas                                                                    
     of the  country, where registration  drives take  up so                                                                    
     much   of   their   resources  and   often   compromise                                                                    
     opportunities  to educate  voters on  who or  what they                                                                    
     may be voting for once they are registered.                                                                                
     4:31:35 PM                                                                                                               
     Voter Education                                                                                                          
     The Division of Elections  and Language Assistance made                                                                    
     a very visible  and vocal effort to  educate the public                                                                    
     on  what  voters  could expect  in  the  Ranked  Choice                                                                    
     Voting  experience. Groups  like GOTNV  tried to  parse                                                                    
     the   information  in   a  more   regional,  culturally                                                                    
     appropriate and relatable  way. Published timelines and                                                                    
     sample ballots were  invaluable in all our  work in the                                                                    
     communities. You  simply can't beat being  able to walk                                                                    
     a voter  through their district sample  ballot. GOTNV's                                                                    
     modest   community  organizer   program  and   training                                                                    
     program for  Alaska Native organization  staff provided                                                                    
     valuable boots  on the  ground for  select communities.                                                                    
     Some  Tribes, Corporations,  and organizations  took it                                                                    
     upon  themselves   or  worked  with  us,   and  several                                                                    
     implemented   their   own  long-term   voter   campaign                                                                    
     initiative and incentives.                                                                                                 
4:32:20 PM                                                                                                                    
     The Special Primary                                                                                                      
     With  the passing  of Congressman  Don  Young in  March                                                                    
     2022, the time constraint of  a special primary to meet                                                                    
     the statute of  seating a replacement in  the middle of                                                                    
     a term was a challenge.  The June 11 all mail-in ballot                                                                    
     process  and  election  deadline  added  a  measure  of                                                                    
     confusion for this unanticipated election.                                                                                 
     The U.S.  Postal Service irrefutably plays  an integral                                                                    
     role in the election  process. Roadless areas of Alaska                                                                    
     are at a  disadvantage when it comes to  voting, as the                                                                    
     staffing    and   training    of   election    workers,                                                                    
     translators,   and  the   air  transport   of  election                                                                    
     machines and  materials can be a  daunting undertaking.                                                                    
     When  there isn't  enough resource  to personally  walk                                                                    
     voters  through  an  electionas   can  often  be  found                                                                    
     through local  polling stationstoo   much gets  lost in                                                                    
     translation with cultural  and language barriers, which                                                                    
     can often result in an  incomplete or improperly filled                                                                    
     out ballot. Statewide, there was  a 27.5% voter turnout                                                                    
     in  this  unstructured  voting  experience  with  7,504                                                                    
     rejected  ballots, that's  a 4.5%  rejection rate.  The                                                                    
     reasons were outlined as such:                                                                                             
        • 2724 for having no witness signature                                                                                  
        • 1897 for having their ballot postmarked after                                                                         
          election day                                                                                                          
        • 1556 for voters not providing one of many                                                                             
          identifiers required                                                                                                  
     Further, the  election deadline was on  a Saturday, and                                                                    
     many rural communities suffer  from unreliable hours of                                                                    
     postal   operations   due    to   various   extenuating                                                                    
     circumstances  that  can  disrupt  staffing  for  days,                                                                    
     weeks,  or  even  months.  Rural,  which  we  typically                                                                    
     consider  HD districts  36    40  (but  we observe  SE,                                                                    
     Kodiak,   the  CIRI/CITC   region   and  other   Tribal                                                                    
     community  districts  as  a service  too)  had  a  mean                                                                    
     turnout of 18.55%. Ballot  instructions were wordy, the                                                                    
     potential  for mistakes  were numerous,  and cost  some                                                                    
     1,194  votes, which  means 15.91%  of a  largely Alaska                                                                    
     Native vote didn't count.                                                                                                  
4:34:00 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SPARCK emphasized how difficult  the division's special needs                                                               
ballot  was to  navigate.  She described  it  as an  intimidating                                                               
docket that  would invite mistakes  from even a super  voter. For                                                               
House District 38  that has primarily Yupik  speakers, 13 special                                                               
needs  ballots were  requested and  8 were  rejected, which  is a                                                               
61.5  percent  rejection.  She   acknowledged  that  it  was  not                                                               
intentional  but  for  people  with  special  needs  or  language                                                               
barriers, the layer of demands seemed to ensure failure.                                                                        
MS. SPARCK  noted that  4,526 more  rural voters  participated in                                                               
the August  16 statewide  primary and  special election  than the                                                               
June  election. She  continued to  paraphrase  from her  prepared                                                               
     August 16 Statewide Primary and Special Election                                                                         
     In  the  August  2022 Primary  Election,  approximately                                                                    
     30,000 more  Alaskans turned out to  vote when compared                                                                    
     to the  June election. Voters encountered  their second                                                                    
     pick-one open  primary. In this election,  voters could                                                                    
     cast  their   ballots  early,  absentee,   absentee  in                                                                    
     person, or same  day. As a result, only  342 votes were                                                                    
     thrown out  by election officials because  ballots were                                                                    
     filled out incorrectly. Ninety-nine  of those were from                                                                    
     our  rural districts,  36-40. Voters  also had  to turn                                                                    
     the ballot over to  participate in the special election                                                                    
     of  the  then three  top  vote  getters from  the  June                                                                    
     4:35:11 PM                                                                                                               
     GOTNV, GOTNVInterior, the  Division, and other advocacy                                                                    
     groups like AFN, Native  Peoples Action, First Alaskans                                                                    
     Institute,   Native   Movement,  the   ANCSA   Regional                                                                    
     Association,  the  Alaska  Native  Village  Corporation                                                                    
     Association,  The Alaska  Black  Caucus,  ABE and  much                                                                    
     more, educated  the public about  the dual  ballot, and                                                                    
     how to participate in ranking  if they so choose. GOTNV                                                                    
     even  produced  an  animated  video  on  Ranked  Choice                                                                    
     Voting  using favored  Alaska  Native  foods, which  is                                                                    
     discoverable  on   YouTube  and   on  our   website  at                                                                    
     www.aknativevote.com. We recently  received a call from                                                                    
     a group in  Hawaii, asking if they could use  it to get                                                                    
     their  voting public  prepared for  RCV  trial runs  in                                                                    
     certain elections.                                                                                                         
     In  the  lead  up  to August  16,  GOTNV  was  fielding                                                                    
     requests from  the Division of Elections  to help staff                                                                    
     polling  locations  in  some  rural  communities.  This                                                                    
     collaboration is essential to  attempt polling in every                                                                    
     eligible precinct  in the state,  but in the  end, Holy                                                                    
     Cross and Venetie could  participate only via absentee,                                                                    
     and  251 registered  voters in  Tununak and  Atmautluak                                                                    
     were unable to vote at all.                                                                                                
4:36:02 PM                                                                                                                    
     November 8 Mid-Term Election                                                                                             
     21,923 voters  from Districts 36-40  voted in  the Mid-                                                                    
     Term  Election,  an increase  of  6,819  more than  the                                                                    
     August  turnout. Trends  indicated  greater turnout  in                                                                    
     each new election, so voter  fatigue and an anticipated                                                                    
     weariness toward RCV did not  seem to negatively impact                                                                    
     On Election  Day, GOTNV received emergency  requests to                                                                    
     help staff Nuiqsut  and Teller. Through one  of our new                                                                    
     board  members assisting  in  their  home district,  we                                                                    
     were able  to open the  polls for a few  hours. Nuiqsut                                                                    
     may  have had  a low  turnout,  but we  helped make  it                                                                    
     happen,  and  at a  much  larger  average turnout  when                                                                    
     factoring the  reduced hours  of operation.  In August,                                                                    
     out of  283 registered  Nuiqsut voters, 28  voted. This                                                                    
     time, 46 people out of  280 voted, giving the community                                                                    
     a 16.43% turnout.                                                                                                          
4:36:40 PM                                                                                                                    
     USPS and Division Disconnect                                                                                             
     Unfortunately,  Priority  and Express  services  aren't                                                                    
     beholden to  marketed guarantees  in rural  Alaska. One                                                                    
     example,   GOTNV   priority  mailed   voter   education                                                                    
     materials from  Anchorage on October 22  to Savoonga in                                                                    
     the lead  up to  the November electionbut   it couldn't                                                                    
     be  picked  up at  the  Post  Office by  our  Community                                                                    
     Organizer until  November 29, some  38 days  later, and                                                                    
     after the election.                                                                                                        
     Concern  over  timely   election  machines  and  ballot                                                                    
     delivery prompted us  to reach out to  the Air Carriers                                                                    
     Association through  Ryan Air to  see what we  could do                                                                    
     to  elevate election  awareness  and responsiveness  in                                                                    
     their operations.  Weather may not be  something any of                                                                    
     us  can control,  but identifying  this precious  cargo                                                                    
     for priority  loading and unloading  helped us  draft a                                                                    
     flyer as a visual aid  for 200 flight agents throughout                                                                    
     rural Alaska.  This is  a service  we intend  to pursue                                                                    
     every election season.                                                                                                     
     Unfortunately, six  canvas bags containing  259 ballots                                                                    
     from  St. George,  Levelock, Ambler,  Kiana, Kobuk  and                                                                    
     Noorvik had  their votes only partially  counted. While                                                                    
     their first ranked votes were  shared with the division                                                                    
     on  election night,  the ballots  were not  returned to                                                                    
     the Division  by November 30  for processing.  While it                                                                    
     would  not  have  changed   any  election  results,  it                                                                    
     reflects a pattern of access  and close-out issues. Add                                                                    
     this to the disproportionately  large number of ballots                                                                    
     from rural  Alaska that were  rejected in the  June by-                                                                    
     mail special  primary, and the  fact that  ballots from                                                                    
     seven villages  failed to reach elections  officials in                                                                    
     time to be counted for the August Special Election.                                                                        
     Platinum,  a  community of  about  55  people, has  "no                                                                    
     [USPS]  employee on  the roles,"  but the  USPS advises                                                                    
     that residents can pick up  their mail in Goodnews Bay,                                                                    
     11 water miles away. The  bay is exposed and subject to                                                                    
     open water,  freeze-up, rotting ice, storms,  and other                                                                    
     conditions. Residents don't  necessarily have access to                                                                    
     safe,  appropriate, and  affordable transportation  for                                                                    
     those  conditions,  be  it   airplane,  boat,  or  snow                                                                    
     machine. As this example  demonstrates, the practice of                                                                    
     relocating  mail services  to a  "nearby" post  office,                                                                    
     one that is  staffed and is open,  actually does little                                                                    
     to  ensure   mail,  and  in  this   case  ballots,  are                                                                    
     delivered in a timely fashion.                                                                                             
4:38:30 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SPARCK  advised that her  written testimony contained  a full                                                               
accounting of  the rural performance  in all the  2022 elections.                                                               
While the data shows that  the turnout increased with each cycle,                                                               
GOTNV and other organizations are  committed to increasing voting                                                               
participation to  levels that  are above and  even beyond  the 50                                                               
percent threshold.                                                                                                              
MS. SPARCK concluded her testimony with the following statement:                                                                
     While the State of Alaska  is impressively open in many                                                                    
     respects  and  recognizes  us   as  voters,  there  are                                                                    
     systemic  barriers that  invariably  taint our  access.                                                                    
     And in some  cases, when we even  successfully vote, it                                                                    
     can sit  in a canvas bag  long after the race  has been                                                                    
     called.  Get  Out  The  Native Vote  and  many  of  our                                                                    
     partners are  here to help  tackle these  truly Alaskan                                                                    
     sized issues.                                                                                                              
4:39:28 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KAWASAKI  thanked Ms.  Sparck and asked  if there  were any                                                               
SENATOR CLAMAN  asked what takeaways the  legislature should look                                                               
at to improve the next election.                                                                                                
4:40:00 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SPARCK suggested the legislature:                                                                                           
- invite  the postal  service to  comment because  it is  such an                                                               
important part of the process.                                                                                                  
-  hold discussions  with the  division about  the potential  for                                                               
using charter airlines.                                                                                                         
- look into  using the National Guard when  foul weather prevents                                                               
charter airlines from flying.                                                                                                   
- discuss the options for using drop boxes.                                                                                     
- look  at the cost for  voters to mail their  ballots because it                                                               
can be an impediment for some voters.                                                                                           
MS. SPARCK  expressed hope that  the new division  director would                                                               
continue  the open  door policy  and let  GOTNV and  other Native                                                               
organizations help  to improve  access for  all rural  and tribal                                                               
areas and make the state's election process more efficient.                                                                     
CHAIR KAWASAKI asked Ms. Thomson if she wanted to comment.                                                                      
4:42:23 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. THOMPSON said the testimony from  Get Out The Native Vote was                                                               
helpful. She  agreed that including  the USPS in  the discussions                                                               
and  understanding  its processes  was  key  to getting  election                                                               
materials to and  from rural areas successfully.  She also stated                                                               
support  for maintaining  partnerships with  Native organizations                                                               
that  have   grassroot  movements  in  their   areas  to  improve                                                               
participation and the voting experience.                                                                                        
CHAIR KAWASAKI  stated that he  looked forward to  the continuing                                                               
4:45:18 PM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair  Kawasaki  adjourned  the  Senate  State  Affairs  Standing                                                               
Committee meeting at 4:45 p.m.                                                                                                  

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SSTA Presentation_Elections_1.26.23.pdf SSTA 1/26/2023 3:30:00 PM
DOE 2022 Elections Recap
SSAC GOTNV Testimony 1-26-23.pdf SSTA 1/26/2023 3:30:00 PM
2022 Elections Recap