JUNEAU -- Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has certified a ballot petition that would link Alaska Permanent Fund dividend applications with voter registrations, which initiative sponsors say could add tens of thousands of Alaskans to voter rolls.
But Mallott's Elections Division is also warning it would cost nearly $1 million to implement and another $300,000 a year to manage.
One of the initiative's sponsors, Tim Kacillas of Anchorage, said despite the upfront cost, there will be ongoing benefits to the state of having more people registered and voting.
"It's originally $500,000 for initial system setup; that's where the bulk of the money goes," he said.
"I think the people of Alaska will think it's worthwhile for that price," he said.
Further, automating the registration and updating process could even result in future savings not part of the official estimate, he said.
The total cost for the first year, in addition to $500,000 to contract for work on the state's election computer system, also includes the cost of additional staff time, the cost of running the election itself and $1,300 for printing election booklets, for a total of about $943,000.
The ongoing costs are largely for mailings to automatically registered voters, which would also allow them to opt out of registration, as well as for confirming address changes.
Certification of the initiative petition required the signatures of at least 100 Alaska voters and now enables its sponsors to begin collecting signatures in an attempt to win a place on the ballot.
According to Mallott, that will mean collecting 28,545 signatures, 10 percent of those who voted in the most recent general election.
And the signatures to get on the ballot also have to come from around the state, with a minimum number of signatures required from 30 of the state's 40 House of Representatives districts.
Certification of the measure for the ballot included a review of the measure's constitutionality by the Department of Law, which raised no concerns.
Kacillas said that didn't surprise the sponsors because they'd had lawyers review it and help with the language.
"They went through it with a fine-tooth comb," he said. "We expected it to be approved, and it is."
The Department of Law also developed an explanation of the measure voters would see on the ballot, and Kacillas said that explanation is adequate as well.
As soon as petition booklets are printed and training is provided for petition gatherers, the sponsors can begin collecting signatures.
Acting Elections Director Lauri Wilson said she expected the booklets to be printed in few days and signature gatherer training to be scheduled as soon as it is convenient.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing