This Nov. 2, 2016, photo shows Alaska Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke at her office in Juneau, Alaska. The division will not say how many of 100,000 voters who received notices about discrepancies in their addresses on voting records cleared them up and how many may have to vote questioned ballots in the Alaska Primary on Aug. 21, 2018, which could delay election results. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Alaska elections director says state is ready for primary

August 17, 2018 - 9:16 pm

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska's elections director said she's confident the state has enough questioned ballot envelopes and that poll workers will be ready after some Alaskans had their voter registration addresses changed before Tuesday's primary.

The issue stems from the implementation of a 2016 ballot initiative during which the state updated some voter registrations using the addresses from residents' applications for the state's oil-wealth fund check. A division spokeswoman has said the division does not have a precise count for how many addresses were changed.

Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke said Friday that Alaskans should feel confident that "this election has integrity and credibility." She said she's confident the results of the election will reflect the will of voters.

Election officials have said that voters who had their information changed — but didn't want a change — can vote a questioned ballot at the polling place based on where they live.

According to the division, a voter would be required to vote a questioned ballot if, for example, their name is not on a precinct register or they want a primary ballot type that they're not eligible to vote. Before receiving a ballot, they must fill out a questioned ballot envelope; their voted ballot goes inside. Information provided on the envelope is used to determine the voter's eligibility. People are asked for information such as where they claim residency and their date of birth.

Given the number of new voters and issues with implementing the 2016 initiative, officials have worked to ensure precincts have extra questioned ballot envelopes, Bahnke said. It's unclear how many questioned ballots might be voted, she said.

The initiative called for the division to register qualified Alaskans to vote when they apply to receive an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. The division also said the initiative allowed it to use information from the applications to ensure voter registrations are current.

According to the division, about 141,000 opt-out notices were mailed in March and April, roughly 36,000 of which were for new voters. The mailer notified people that the information on their check application would be used to update their voter registration or register them to vote unless they opted out within 30 days.

Bahnke said about 13,900 opted-out via the mailer. About 6,000 of those were new voters who didn't want to be registered and the rest were for address changes, she said.

People also were able to change their information online or by contacting the division ahead of the primary, she said. The deadline for making changes ahead of the primary was July 22.

Voters will have a chance to change their information ahead of the November general election. The deadline for that is Oct. 7, and Bahnke said the division planned outreach, including ads and social media activities, to get the word out.

The division earlier this year sought tweaks to the initiative law that would have allowed people to decline to register to vote or update their voter information when they apply for the dividend check. That legislation went nowhere.

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