By Allison Herrera
A ballot measure in Alaska would automatically register residents to vote. Alaska Native groups are lining up in favor of Ballot Measure One which aims to increase voter participation among people who are often left out of the political process. It enjoys support from Republicans and Democrats alike. But some conservatives are now speaking out, bringing up the specter of voter fraud.
The proposed ballot measure works like this: when Alaskans register to get their annual Permanent Fund Dividend check, they’ll automatically be registered to vote. It’s something Sarah Obed says will save time and bring in almost 70,000 new voters. Obed works for the Alaska Native corporations, Doyon Limited, which is working with other organizations to improve voting among Alaska Natives. She attended the Alaska Federation of Natives conference, where Alaska Natives, state political leaders, and heads of corporations all spoke up publicly in favor of Ballot Measure One.
“We want every Native Alaskan and every Alaskan to feel empowered to get to the polls,” Obed said.
Obed is also excited to see voter guides in Alaska native languages like Inupaiq,Gwich’in and Yupic. It’s the result of a recent lawsuit. She and others are using this ballot measure to encourage Native voters.
The ballot initiative has drawn almost no opposition. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without its critics. Paul Jenkins is a conservative columnist and the editor of the online news site, the Anchorage Daily Planet. He said it could lead to voter fraud and he’s suspicious of all the outside money the ballot measure has drawn.
“What the initiative backers are not saying is the drive appears aimed simply at advancing the political left’s agenda while letting you pick up the tab for boosting voter registrations, especially in rural Alaska where Democrats hold sway,” Jenkins said.
The ballot measure will cost nearly $1-million to implement, but supporters like Obed say it’s worth it. If people vote yes, she says, it will be a permanent win for Alaska Native who go to the polls every election, and, she says, she and others can focus on other things.
“We can help people get to the polls,” Obed said. “Tell people how to vote, when to vote. We can basically focus our efforts on voter education especially for Native Alaskans.”