State doing what it can to make it easier to cast a vote

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell

How can we do better?

Three weeks ago Alaska had a primary election. Only about 25 percent of registered voters actually filled in a ballot, and we can't tell how many, but at least 20,000 eligible Alaskans didn't even register.

Low voter turnout, we call it. But what does that actually mean? Are Alaskans apathetic? We're busy, for sure, but as I travel our state I know Alaskans care -- deeply -- about a wide range of issues.

Today we celebrate National Voter Registration Day. I ask for your help to get Alaskans registered and voting.

I'm asking this because it's hard to believe that the people who fill our pipeline with oil and who fill the world's dinner plates with fish don't want to participate in choosing who writes the laws that regulate their livelihood. It's equally hard to believe that Alaska's other industry workers and entrepreneurs don't care either.

Our traditional and subsistence communities also care deeply about protecting timeless ways and cultural heritage. Decisions that help or hurt these values are made in Juneau and Washington, D.C.

And we have a diverse young generation of artists and musicians, fishermen and builders, guides and service industry workers, who congregate at First Fridays and First Taps and who are passionate about local culture and global issues. The people we send to our capitols make choices every day that affect our culture, the way we work, learn and play.

To help Alaskans exercise their right to hold their government accountable, our office and our Division of Elections are working to make voter registration and voting an even easier process.

• As the U.S. Constitution requires every 10 years, our Legislature is redistricted based on new census data. We've worked hard to let Alaskans know what those new boundaries are, and to ensure their polling places are easily accessible.

• New voter ID cards sent out this year include a QR code so your smart phone can take you right to a website with polling place information, sample ballots, an election pamphlet, as well as early and absentee-in-person voting locations.

• We've worked to help military voters with voting locations on base and new electronic ballot delivery for deployed soldiers and others.

• We're preparing for future elections with further advances in technology and the power of social networks. Online voter registration will improve. Real time accounting of who has voted will help "get out the vote" efforts by all sides in an election.

• We are helping young Alaskans exercise their freedom -- and their duty -- to vote. We engage students in our Youth Vote Ambassador Program, we work with long-established organizations like the League of Women Voters, and we have asked schools to participate in the National Mock Elections on November 1. We just sent a reminder to 4,000 Alaskans who turn 18 before Election Day, as we did to all unregistered Permanent Fund Dividend recipients last year.

We want our kids to understand and be excited about voting. Of course, the best way to do that as their parents and friends: set the example and vote, every time.

If Alaskans don't vote on Nov. 6, it won't be because it's difficult to do so. But we should remind each other -- if we don't hold tenaciously to our rights and freedoms, will we even notice if they fade away?

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations," James Madison told us.

Thomas Jefferson didn't mince words either: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Voting is vigilance. It says, we the people know we are the source of power. Government is of us, by us and for us. We protect that principle at the polls. America is free, but there's no guarantee of liberty if we cease to be vigilant.

It's your government, it's your right, it's your power. No less important, it's your American duty. There are no good excuses. Register. Vote.

Mead Treadwell was elected Alaska's lieutenant governor in 2010. He oversees the state Division of Elections.