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To boost election security, Alaska suspends electronic absentee program

The Alaska Division of Elections has announced it will suspend a little-used absentee voting program in an effort to improve the security of the state’s elections.

In a note released last week, the division said it had received a “B” grade for election security in a recent study conducted by the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy group.

“B” was the highest grade awarded to any state in the country; 11 states received the ranking, the report indicated.

Alaska’s report drew attention to the way the state handles absentee ballots submitted from overseas.

The report said in part, “Alaska allows voters stationed or living overseas to return voted ballots electronically, a practice that election security experts say is notoriously insecure. Unlike most states, Alaska allows all absentee voters — not just (overseas absentee) voters — to return voted ballots via fax. Alaska’s broad allowance of the practice leaves it vulnerable to Election Day problems.”

After the report’s release, Division of Elections supervisor Josie Bahnke wrote, “Alaska is suspending the return of completed ballots through a web portal in 2018 until a more secure solution is available. The Division will continue to accept voted ballots via fax and by mail.”

According to Division of Elections statistics, 8,411 absentee ballots were returned electronically in 2016. That represents about 7 percent of the 123,239 absentee ballots voted in the most recent statewide election.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Alaska’s voting system was one of 21 state systems examined by Russian hackers before and after the 2016 election.

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