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Alaska Legislature

Alaska Senate approves remote voting for lawmakers if needed during pandemic

Senators crowd around the cellphone of Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, as they consult the Alaska Legislature's legal staff on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 during a break in the debate over SCR 1, a resolution that would allow legislators to vote remotely if required by COVID-19 quarantine. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — The Alaska Senate passed a resolution Wednesday intended to allow for remote voting if necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure next goes to the House, which hasn’t organized a majority. The legislative session began Jan. 19.

Senate Rules Chair Gary Stevens, a Kodiak Republican, said the measure would provide another tool to allow for legislative work to continue.

“Nobody hopes we have to do it. ... But we needed to have something in place just in case that should happen,” he said.

Legislative leaders before the start of the new session approved moving forward with plans to set up such a system. The project timeline called for 30 days to develop and up to one week to prepare the system for use.

The measure would allow the Senate president or House speaker to authorize a lawmaker to attend a session by videoconference if the member is in quarantine or has contracted COVID-19 or when necessary to establish a quorum if the Legislature cannot physically meet due to the pandemic.

When attendance by videoconference is authorized, the presiding officer is to be physically present in the Capitol when conducting a session.

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