Alaska lawmakers have already impacted this fall’s elections simply by doing nothing. Insert joke here.
Because the Legislature did not adjourn by midnight last night, a clause in the Alaska Constitution kicked in which moves all ballot initiatives to the November general election ballot. This year, that only affects one initiative, the PFD Voter Registration initiative.
The Alaska State Constitution, Article 11, Section 4 states:
An initiative petition may be filed at any time. The lieutenant governor shall prepare a ballot title and proposition summarizing the proposed law, and shall place them on the ballot for the first statewide election held more than one hundred twenty days after adjournment of the legislative session following the filing. If, before the election, substantially the same measure has been enacted, the petition is void.
An initiative must have 120 days between when the Legislature adjourns and when it appears on a state ballot. If we count backwards 120 days from the state primary election on August 16 we arrive at April 19, today. Unless the legislature magically finishes all of its unresolved business tonight, the PFD Voter Registration initiative will go on the November 8 general election ballot.
It’s early, but that move could have a significant impact on the initiative. Different populations of voters tend to vote in general elections versus primary elections. For instance, in Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux’s East Anchorage/JBER district there were 3988 registered voters in the JBER precinct. In general election 575 of those voters went to the polls on election day to vote, in a recent primary only 61 of them voted.
In an email yesterday, John Henry Heckendorn of Ship Creek Group, the campaign consulting firm managing the initiative, acknowledged the change from the primary to the general election will have an impact. According to Heckendorn that is probably a good thing for them “We anticipate that the General Election represents an even more favorable electorate for this proposal, given that it trends towards a larger and younger demographic than the primary, with typically greater representation from rural Alaska. “
The PFD Voter Registration Initiative would automatically register to vote anyone who is qualified to vote in Alaska and signs up for the PFD. The move would likely add thousands of names to Alaska’s voter roles and dramatically improve the accuracy of information the State keeps on voters, such as their mailing addresses.
Look for this move, coupled with the Anchorage Municipal Clerk switching to a vote by mail system, to have dramatic implications as early as next year’s municipal elections.