With recent changes to Alaska’s voting laws, it is vital that we as a state remain transparent with our election process, as to ensure trust in the system. To preempt and proactively address possible calls to scrutinize election results, the Alaska State Legislature should pass a resolution requiring automatic audits of statewide races. To avoid partisan bickering over results one way or another, Alaska should lead the way in election transparency.
Whether it be claims of election interference from foreign powers, or allegations of voter fraud, both parties and independents alike have increased interest in election integrity. While calls to audit and recount results have been heavily polarized in the past election cycle, Alaska can help to break that perception. By declaring ahead of time that results will be reconfirmed, politicians running and their voters will have increased trust in the process.
As it stands currently, Alaska voters or losing candidates must request an audit of election results for one to be performed. This, however, serves only to increase polarization. The losing candidate and their supporters attempting to obtain a recount or an audit, inadvertently — or, perhaps, willingly — undermines our electoral system. Because the onus is placed on candidates or voters, instead of one automatically occurring, people who voted for the winning candidate will see it as only an attempt to undermine their votes. And those attempting to obtain an audit could be trying to subvert the will of the people by garnering enough discrepancies to allow their candidate to win. It’s a lose-lose system that must be addressed.
In a midterm election where every U.S. Senate race will be heavily watched and discussed, both within the state and nationally, it is important more than ever to ensure that there is trust in our electoral system. The bedrock of democracy is the consent that the people give the government to rule, and that relationship is irreparably harmed if election results continue to be polarized.
The Alaska State Legislature and the Division of Elections have blueprints to work from as well. As it currently stands, Alaska state law has provisions for an audit that randomly selects and hand-counts a precinct from each House district. Alaska has 40 State House districts, and these audits only cover a small portion of total votes cast. The Alaska Legislature, due to increased demands for election integrity, should expand the current law to include an audit of all ballots cast. Further, as it currently stands, results are only to be published if there is a 1% or more discrepancy found. But again, to increase transparency, results should be published, discrepancies or no.
A new primary system, ranked-choice voting and national attention are setting Alaska voters up for a tense midterm election. We don’t have to wait for things to get ugly before we can address the issues plaguing not only Alaskans, but the entire nation. Let’s remove election audits from the polarizing partisan fighting that the U.S. is currently experiencing and enshrine them in Alaska law.
Scott Santaella is a West High graduate, currently studying political science and history at Temple University. He interned for Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2019 and Sen. Dan Sullivan in 2020.
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