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Richard Mauer

As closing arguments were delivered in the Native voting rights lawsuit in federal court, the Alaska Federation of Natives announced Thursday it was leading an effort to bring in-person absentee voting to nearly every village in the state.

The double-barreled effort by Native rights advocates comes a year after the U.S. Supreme Court weakened U.S. Voting Rights Act protections for minorities, including those in Alaska, in a case brought by Shelby County, Ala. The state of Alaska filed a brief in support of Shelby County while AFN filed in opposition...

Richard Mauer

Elections Division Director Gail Fenumiai rejected claims Wednesday that villages with sizable numbers of limited English speakers also turn out to vote in lower proportions than elsewhere in Alaska.

Testifying as the state's last witness in the Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed by village tribal organizations and elders against her and other election officials, Fenumiai said most of the village precincts beat the state's average turnout in the 2012 presidential election. She said the plaintiffs in the case, who say the state isn't doing enough to assist Yup'ik and Gwich'in speakers who have trouble with English, compared "apples to oranges" when they cited statistics showing low turnout...

Richard Mauer

Elections Division Director Gail Fenumiai rejected claims Wednesday that villages with sizable numbers of limited English speakers also turn out to vote in lower proportions than elsewhere in Alaska.

Testifying as the state's last witness in the Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed by village tribal organizations and elders against her and other election officials, Fenumiai said most of the village precincts beat the state's average turnout in the 2012 presidential election. She said the plaintiffs in the case, who say the state isn't doing enough to assist Yup'ik and Gwich'in speakers who have trouble with English, compared "apples to oranges" when they cited statistics showing low turnout...

Richard Mauer

Two state election officials spent most of Tuesday testifying about the efforts they make to assist Native language speakers at village polling places.

Defending themselves against a voting rights lawsuit, the officials said they’ve translated difficult ballot measures, put notices on local radio stations and VHF village radio, and recruited bilingual workers and trained them to assist mainly elderly voters who struggle with English.

“We do our very best in recruiting bilingual outreach workers,” said Becka Baker, elections supervisor for the Nome region. “We sometimes call everybody in a village trying to recruit election workers.”...

Richard Mauer

Two state election officials spent most of Tuesday testifying about the efforts they make to assist Native language speakers at village polling places.

Defending themselves against a voting rights lawsuit, the officials said they've translated difficult ballot measures, put notices on local radio stations and VHF village radio, and recruited bilingual workers and trained them to assist mainly elderly voters who struggle with English.

"We do our very best in recruiting bilingual outreach workers," said Becka Baker, elections supervisor for the Nome region. "We sometimes call everybody in a village trying to recruit election workers."...

Richard Mauer

An expert testifying in the federal voting rights trial in Anchorage said Monday it's possible to trace Alaska's current failure to provide full language assistance to Native language speakers to territorial days when Alaska Natives were denied citizenship unless they renounced their own culture.

"This represents the continuing organizational culture, looking at the law as something they're forced to do, instead of looking at the policy goal of being sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate," said University of Utah political science professor Daniel McCool. "It's part of a pattern I see over a long period of time, a consistent culture -- they're going to fight this. When forced to do something, they're going to do it, but only when they've been ordered to."...

Richard Mauer

An expert testifying in the federal voting rights trial in Anchorage said Monday it’s possible to trace Alaska’s current failure to provide full language assistance to Native language speakers to territorial days when Alaska Natives were denied citizenship unless they renounced their own culture.

“This represents the continuing organizational culture, looking at the law as something they’re forced to do, instead of looking at the policy goal of being sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate,” said University of Utah political science professor Daniel McCool. “It’s part of a pattern I see over a long period of time, a consistent culture — they’re going to fight this. When forced to do something, they’re going to do it, but only when they’ve been ordered to.”...

Richard Mauer

Alaska election officials made less of an effort to expand the reach of their Yup'ik language assistance program to regions beyond Bethel because it wasn't required under the settlement of a 2007 lawsuit, elections division director Gail Fenumiai testified Friday.

Now the state is back in court again, with plaintiffs representing Natives with limited English skills saying Fenumiai should have broadened the outreach program to the Dillingham region, the Wade Hampton census area in the delta region north of Bethel, and to Gwich'in speakers in the Interior. They say the language requirements of the U.S. Voting Rights Act demand no less...

Richard Mauer

Alaska election officials made less of an effort to expand the reach of their Yup'ik language assistance program to regions beyond Bethel because it wasn't required under the settlement of a 2007 lawsuit, elections division director Gail Fenumiai testified Friday.

Now the state is back in court again, with plaintiffs representing Natives with limited English skills saying Fenumiai should have broadened the outreach program to the Dillingham region, the Wade Hampton census area in the delta region north of Bethel and to Gwich'in speakers in the Interior. They say the language requirements of the U.S. Voting Rights Act demand no less...

Richard Mauer

The official who oversaw the state Election Division's Yup'ik language program knew that a mangled translation about absentee balloting was running on radio in Bethel and Dillingham in 2009 but told her bosses to just ignore it.

Instead of saying "absentee voting," the notice on KYUK and KDLG said, "to be voting for a long time."

"We will be criticized by the plaintiffs if they catch it, but what the heck, it's a similar word and hope that it goes right over their heads! :-)" Dorie Wassilie, the Election Division's language coordinator in Bethel and a Yup'ik speaker, wrote in Sept. 17, 2009, email to her boss, Shelly Growden.

Growden, who doesn't speak Yup'ik, agreed with Wassilie's judgment. "I too think it should be fine," Growden replied...

Richard Mauer

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