Richard Mauer

A federal judge directed Alaska election officials on Monday to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act by expanding their language outreach to Yup’ik- and Gwich’in-speaking villagers for the November election. U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason told state officials they must provide written translations of most of the important election materials they give to English-speaking voters, including candidate statements in the official election pamphlet mailed to every voter in Alaska. She also directed them to increase six-fold the number of hours that bilingual outreach workers are paid to help Yup’ik and Gwich’in speakers understand the ballot and their right to vote. She ordered state officials to provide material in Yup’ik dialects when Central Yup’ik would be misunderstood in the...Richard Mauer
Alaska’s two senators proposed congressional action Thursday to clamp down on the National Guard to prevent misconduct from festering the way it has in the scandal-plagued Alaska National Guard. Sen. Lisa Murkowski wants the Government Accountability Office to look into how the Defense Department investigates serious allegations within National Guard units and whether the investigations are effective. Sen. Mark Begich would increase the role of the Pentagon’s National Guard Bureau to order investigations into wrongdoing without waiting for a request from a state’s governor or adjutant general. Both lawmakers would increase the accountability to Washington of the National Guard -- typically a state agency heavily funded by the Pentagon. Guardsmen typically move between state and federal...Richard Mauer
A former Alaska National Guard soldier said Thursday that she experienced firsthand the embarrassment of having the confidentiality of her rape breached in her unit and openly discussed by her command and fellow troops. Sgt. Melissa Jones, now with the Illinois National Guard, told reporters by phone that she was left traumatized by the failure of Alaska guard officials to keep her case private. To add insult to that injury, she said, she was told by the guard’s sexual assault response coordinator that she couldn’t make an official report because her case had become too widely known. Those were two major issues detailed in the critical report of the Alaska National Guard and its failures of leadership issued last week by the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations. The...Richard Mauer
An EPA effort to protect wetlands and small streams upriver from its established haunts on “navigable waters” is winning praise from outdoors groups as a way to ensure water quality, but U.S. House Republicans, including Alaska Rep. Don Young, say it’s “federal overreach.” To emphasize the point, the House titled a bill to hold back the EPA, “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014.” Young was one of its dozens of co-sponsors, and it easily passed the Republican-led House Tuesday, 262-152. One Republican voted no and 35 Democrats voted yes. But Chris Hunt, a spokesman for Trout Unlimited, said the bill, HR 5078, was more like “congressional overreach” into an area the EPA long had jurisdiction -- the streams and marshes that feed into the rivers directly...Richard Mauer
Independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker on Thursday took back a promise to veto any legislation that would weaken abortion rights in Alaska, saying he shouldn’t have committed himself to a position on hypothetical bills. “That’s further than I wanted to go,” Walker said. “I did something poorly and I went further than what I was comfortable with.” Abortion rights are as hot and polarizing an issue in Alaska as they are in the rest of the country. When Democrat Byron Mallott and his supporters started meeting with Walker and his team to discuss a fusion ticket, pro-choice vs. pro-life played a big part in the discussions. Walker said that other positions he has taken on abortion are unchanged: although he considers himself a “social conservative” and personally opposes abortions,...Richard Mauer
A federal judge in Anchorage ruled Wednesday that the state Elections Division violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act by failing to provide ballot and candidate information in Native languages to Yup’ik and Gwich’in speakers in three rural regions of Alaska. In a big victory for Native rights advocates, U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason rejected the state’s assertions that it had done enough in Southwest Alaska and the Interior by providing bilingual poll workers and “outreach” personnel. Gleason said the state’s effort failed to provide “substantially similar” information in Native languages as it does in English, a requirement of the Voting Rights Act since 1975. While the plaintiffs -- two Yup’ik-speaking elders and four federally recognized village tribes -- had sought to have all...Richard Mauer
Their arms raised and hands clasped in a victory embrace, Bill Walker and his new running mate, Byron Mallott, declared at a rally and press conference Tuesday that their race for Alaska’s chief executive would be nonpartisan and inclusive. Walker, a Republican until just a couple of hours before the event, and Mallott, the Democratic nominee for governor until he resigned from the ticket a short time before, declared they were running as independents to repair the state’s economy, energy policies, education practices and the state’s relations with its rural residents. “We talk about bipartisanship, having a bipartisan administration. We’ll have a ‘no partisan’ administration,” Walker told a cheering crowd packed behind a bank of TV cameras in the Quarter Deck at the Hotel Captain Cook. “...Richard Mauer
The Alaska Democratic Party broke with long tradition Monday when its central committee voted 89-2 to not field a gubernatorial ticket and instead put its weight behind the independent campaign of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott. The vote to support the fusion ticket was contingent on Walker dropping his Republican Party affiliation. Mallott will quit as the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor, as will his running mate, state Sen. Hollis French. But Mallott will remain a Democrat, executive director Kay Brown said after the vote at party headquarters in a Spenard bungalow. “This is a struggle for a lot of people,” said longtime Democrat Carolyn Covington, the party’s former secretary. “I am one of those people who has never voted for a Republican -- never in my life. And I won’t be...Richard Mauer
As merger talks continued Labor Day between Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott and independent Bill Walker, the Democratic Party scheduled evening meetings of its governing body to ratify a deal on a unity ticket -- if one can be struck. Since Friday, Mallott and Walker and their aides and supporters have been in serious negotiations about creating a single ticket and asking their lieutenant governor running mates to resign. Under most versions reported about a deal, the two would run as independents, with Walker the governor candidate and Mallott for lieutenant governor. The Democratic Party’s central committee would have to agree to not replace Mallott on the ballot, leaving a blank spot at the top of the ticket for the first time in state history. According to spokesman...Richard Mauer
Democrat Byron Mallott and independent Bill Walker and their partisans have been in discussions since Wednesday about merging their gubernatorial campaigns into a bipartisan or nonpartisan unity ticket. With the Sept. 2 deadline looming for changes to the November ballot, the talks intensified Friday and are expected to continue through Labor Day. The negotiations could, for the first time in Alaska history, result in a blank spot on the ballot where the Democratic gubernatorial ticket normally would be -- an idea that key party members appear to be endorsing, though approval would have to come from the party central committee. “Talks are continuing between the Walker and Mallott teams to create a unified ticket and there will be a formal press availability on Tuesday,” said Laury...Richard Mauer