JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska lawmaker has introduced a bill to partially dismantle voting-by-mail systems used by Anchorage, Juneau and other cities across the state.
Republican state Sen. Mike Shower said the proposal is intended to strengthen the security of the state’s election system in a nonpartisan way, the Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.
However, several legislative observers claimed on Friday that a portion of the bill “may ban municipalities from having vote-by-mail elections.”
That part of the bill prohibits cities and boroughs from automatically sending ballots to registered voters. Cities and boroughs would still be able to send ballots to voters who request them, officials said.
Alaska Municipal League Director Nils Andreassen said he is not yet certain if vote-by-mail would become impossible under the restriction, but it would require the cities to “start over” and rewrite their election laws.
“I think the bigger concern is not that it makes it impossible, but that it takes away decision-making ability at the local level, as to determine what should be possible or not,” Andreassen said.
Three senators on the State Affairs Committee — Sens. Lora Reinbold, Mia Costello and Roger Holland — either declined to comment or said they had not yet read the bill.
Democratic Sen. Scott Kawasaki, who is also the committee’s minority member, said he was in the middle of reading it.
“They’re going to say this is an election-reform bill, but this is a voter suppression bill, plain and simple. People are going to be less able to vote, less likely to get a ballot, and it disenfranchises a whole section of folks that were able to benefit this last year,” Kawasaki said.
If approved, the bill would take effect in 2022.