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Federal action is needed to protect the vote

  • Author: Jahna Lindemuth
    | Opinion
  • Updated: 3 days ago
  • Published 3 days ago

Absentee ballots being scanned for tabulation at the Division of Elections Region II office in Anchorage on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Voting is at the heart of our democracy. Protecting the freedom to vote should not be controversial, but we seem to be living in the Upside Down. There are now a number of competing bills before the Alaska Legislature — some legitimately trying to strengthen the right to vote and others seeking to suppress Alaskans’ access to the ballot box. Similar bills are being introduced across the country, and a number of these bills may be successful. More than 350 bills have been introduced in 47 states seeking to erect barriers to voting.

Alaska happens to have gold-standard election laws on the books that follow many of the best practices, and no major reforms are presently needed in our state. But we should not go backward, and create barriers to voting here in Alaska. And to limit the impact of voter suppression bills across the United States, Congress needs to enact baseline federal election standards applicable to all voters regardless of where they live.

The For the People Act (H.R.1) passed the U.S. House on March 4, 2021, and its Senate version, S.1, is now before the Senate. If signed into law, the bill would restore voters to their rightful place at the center of American democracy. Focused on ensuring best practices in elections, the bill calls for automatic voter registration, allows no-excuse absentee voting, provides for early voting days, requires challenges to voter registration to be based on personal and reliable knowledge, sets stronger standards for removing voters from the election rolls, and allows those who have served their time to vote. To top it off, Election Day would become a federal holiday, so more people could exercise their right to vote.

Many of the best practices in H.R.1/S.1 are already in place in Alaska. For example, Alaska has automatic voter registration for those who apply for the Permanent Fund dividend, and we can vote early and by absentee ballot if we so choose. Alaska’s accessible voter identification law allows for multiple forms of voter identification at the polls, like utility bills or the poll worker’s personal knowledge of the voter. But other states do not have strong voting laws like we do. Protecting our democracy as these challenges mount is critical. Let’s make sure every eligible American is free to vote, and that the results of our elections reflect the will of the people. Please contact Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan today to let them know Alaskans support the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1).

Jahna Lindemuth is a former Alaska Attorney General and Voter Protection Program Advisory Board member.

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