Lawsuit: Alaska absentee application mailings discriminatory

Lawsuit: Alaska absentee application mailings discriminatory

Lawsuit says absentee ballots should be mailed to all.

By BECKY BOHRER

Associated Press

A lawsuit filed Friday says state elections officials are discriminating by mailing unprompted absentee ballot applications to older Alaskans but not to all qualified voters.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Anchorage, seeks to have applications sent ahead of the primary and general elections to “all registered Alaska voters, regardless of their age.” The plaintiffs are the Disability Law Center of Alaska, Native Peoples Action Community Fund, Alaska Public Interest Research Group and two individuals.

“For my part, I think the state had the right idea, ‘Let’s make it super easy,’” said Scott Kendall, one of the attorneys in the case.

But he said he doesn’t understand limiting the effort. The state’s approach “doesn’t pass legal muster. It doesn’t pass logical muster,” he said.

Maria Bahr, a Department of Law spokesperson, said the department will review the complaint and respond once properly served with it.

[State’s plan is for primary to proceed as usual]

The state allows anyone to request a ballot by mail, and the Division of Elections last month announced a new online system intended to make it easier to apply for absentee ballots.

But the new option requires voters to know about it, according to the lawsuit, which cites internet connectivity concerns for voters, particularly in rural Alaska, and a need for a valid Alaska driver’s license or state ID card.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who oversees the division, last month said the decision to send ballot applications to registered voters 65 and older came out of concern with the coronavirus. He cited the state’s chief medical officer in saying that group is vulnerable.

“And frankly, we’re just not, I’ll speak for myself, not as tech savvy as maybe somebody in their 30s and 40s,” said Meyer, who is 64.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists older adults and people with medical conditions as being at increased risk for severe illness related to the coronavirus. Those who should take extra precautions include some racial and ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and people with developmental and behavioral disorders, according to the agency.

Other states have seen challenges to plans for conducting elections during the pandemic. In North Carolina, for example, there is challenge to a witness requirement for people casting mail-in absentee ballots. In Tennessee, a judge ordered expanded the option to vote absentee, a decision that state is appealing.

Alaska’s primary is scheduled for Aug. 18.

More in News

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, June 18, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A former Juneau chiropractor who was indicted for multiple sexual assault charges in April was charged with more assaults in early June. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Former chiropractor faces additional sexual assault charges

The former Juneau resident was indicted for five more felony charges early in June.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senators press Interior Secretary Haaland on oil lease pause

Murkowski said she was flabbergasted that Haaland did not address the court ruling.

I have flies with barbell eyes, jig heads, cone heads, bead heads and no heads. I have flies with stinger hooks that trail and long-shanked salmon hooks that don’t. I have red, pink, salmon, fuchsia, cerise, purple, orange, flesh, green, olive, chartreuse, white and black flies made of feathers, chenille, hackle, marabou, flashabou and silicone. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: One good fish

Three is the magic number.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Wednesday, June 16

The most recent state and local figures.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry speaks in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water was blocked Tuesday, June 15, 2021, by a federal judge in Louisiana. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed in March by Louisiana’s Republican attorney general, Jeff Landry and officials in 12 other states. Doughty’s ruling granting a preliminary injunction to those states said his order applies nationwide. (AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Federal judge blocks Biden’s pause on new oil, gas leases

The decision is a blow to Biden’s efforts to rapidly transition the nation away from fossil fuels.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 16, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Friday, June 11

The most recent state and local figures.

Thunder Mountain High School on April 18, 2021. When school resumes in the fall, John Luhrs will serve as the interim principal. The search for a new assistant principal continues.	(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Interim principal named at TMHS

Veteran educator John Luhrs will step into the post

Most Read