Seeking Ballot Rejection Solutions from the State of Alaska

Attorney: Megan R. Condon

The Arctic Village Council, the League of Women Voters, and two individual Alaskans demand state leaders make changes to prevent mass-rejection of ballots before fall 2022 elections. The Native American Rights Fund (NARF), American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska (ACLU-AK), and Perkins Coie filed a lawsuit on their behalf against the Alaska Division of Elections Director, the Alaska Lieutenant Governor, and Alaska Division of Elections.

Background:

The State of Alaska rejected more than 7,500 ballots in the June 2022 special primary election. About 63 percent of rejected ballots were not counted because of defects that could have been corrected. Rejection rates were significantly higher in rural areas, where percentages of Alaska Native voters are substantially higher.

“The significantly higher rejection rates in rural Alaska reflect disparate impacts on Alaska Native voters who already face increased barriers to voting. It is critical that a meaningful ballot cure process be in place to ensure that the votes of all Alaskans are counted,” said NARF Staff Attorney Megan Condon.

Nearly half the states, as well as the Municipality of Anchorage, have secure elections with a codified process to ensure that the voices of voters are not silenced for a clerical error. But the State of Alaska continues to reject curable ballots year after year despite the obvious disenfranchising impact resulting from a lack of cure.

Case Updates

July 19, 2022: Demand Letter

On July 19, 2022, NARF, ACLU-AK, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law demanded solutions from Alaska’s leaders before fall elections. The demand letter sent on July 19, 2022, stated:

“No one who makes a good faith effort to vote should have their ballot discarded without having a chance to fix an easily remedied mistake. That is why, as we move towards elections in August, October, and November, we urge you to ensure that all Alaskans who vote absentee can count on their vote counting by promptly notifying voters that their ballot was rejected and why, and providing them an opportunity before Election Day to remedy any curable defects that caused the rejection.”

The groups asked the State of Alaska to inform them within seven days about how it intends to resolve the issue.

July 27, 2022: No Action and Denial of Responsibility

In response to the demand letter, Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer and Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai issued a joint response on July 27. Instead of implementing a notice and cure process in time for the November general election, the state officials denied responsibility for the issue and failed to provide a resolution.

August 23, 2022: Lawsuit Filed

On behalf of the Arctic Village Council, the League of Women Voters, and two individual Alaskans, NARF, ACLU-AK, and Perkins Coie filed a complaint on August 23, 2022. The complaint states that the state failed to honor the due process rights of voters when they failed to notify voters of clerical errors and rejected ballots without giving voters any opportunity to correct the errors.

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