The State of Alaska is on target to provide election materials in Alaska’s Native languages in order to meet a court-ordered deadline in a voting rights case.
Many at yesterday’s hearing, held by the Alaska Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to review the language translation effort, praised the state, but also worried that plans to move Alaska to a vote-by-mail system would disenfranchise Alaska Native voters whose primary language is not English and who have limited ability to read and write.
Josie Bahnke, head of the state Division of Elections, says that the state is looking at delivering ballots by mail, but keeping an election official in the community to help locals vote.
“Also, that local voting official would serve as the ballot box, and that would be available out in our rural communities, under this hybrid system, up to two weeks before the election.”
The state is forced to look at options because the Accu-Vote System currently in place is so old that replacement parts aren’t available.
“We need to decide,” Bahnke said. “Are we going to purchase all new precinct based voting equipment for 441 precincts, or are we going to look at alternative ballot delivery systems.”
State election officials say that the new system will not be in place by 2018, and may take several years to develop.