Boy, the voting memes are fun but what we’d really like is a fair election

“The ballot design change was a last-minute decision and should be looked at with suspicion.”

Those were the words of attorney Kevin Feldis, who was in front of the Anchorage Superior Court today arguing on behalf of Democrat-backed independent congressional candidate Alyse Galvin that the Division of Elections must reprint this year’s general election ballots after a surprise move by wiped away the voter registration of dozens of candidates.

It could be said about much of the Division of Elections’ actions this year (save for the gifs and memes, we like those), but more on that later in this post.

Without notifying candidates, political parties or voters, Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai redesigned the general election ballots to eliminate any indication that independent candidates who reached the general election through the Alaska Democratic Party’s primaries are, in fact, independents.

Fenumiai claims there were no politics at play in a decision that several candidates say is unfair, undemocratic and an advantage for Republicans in several contested races.

Her decision affected Galvin, U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross, several legislative races and even Libertarians who reached the ballot through nominating petition. Instead of having “non-affiliated” or their voter registration next to their names—as was the case in the 2018 election and the 2020 primary—they now just say “Democratic Nominee” or, in Libertarian candidate for House District 16 Scott Kohlhaas’ case, “Petition Nominee.”

“Director Fenumiai’s unilateral decision to deny my party identification, while at the same time pushing the Democrat label on independent candidates, without consulting with or being asked to do so by voters, is an insult to our democratic process,” Kohlhaas said in a statement released Tuesday night (he is not party to the lawsuit brought by Galvin). “If the Lt. Governor knew about this, he is a danger to our democracy. If he didn’t, his administration is out of control. Either way, it’s hard to trust his administration to continue governing our elections.”

Today, the state defended its decision by arguing that reprinting the ballots could potentially cause the state to miss the deadline to mail ballots to oversea voters and that the law doesn’t actually support spelling out a candidate’s voter registration in addition to their party affiliation because that law was written before Democrats opened their primaries.

The state didn’t, however, give a clear reason for why the change was made—just that it was permissible in their eyes. They also didn’t explain why the state didn’t notify anyone of the changes—which they said was made back in June—until the ballots had been printed and the deadline to mail them less than a week away, making the logistics of a change easier.

The state said they’ve already printed some 800,000 ballots already and aren’t sure if there’s the paper available for a quick reprint.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jennifer Stuart Henderson said she’ll make a decision on a temporary restraining order by the end of today, but today’s issue is just one more piece in a growing mountain of evidence that when taken together calls into question the fairness of our elections and the trust in the administration overseeing them.

Time and again, the Division of Elections and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer have made decisions that just so happen to tip the scales in favor of Republicans and their interests. Several legal challenges have, in most cases, found the Division of Elections made the wrong call according to state law and the Alaska Constitution. In a case over how the voter oil tax initiative was being handled, a superior court judge literally said that Meyer, a former oil company employee, had “his finger on the scales.”

For those keeping score, here’s a rundown of the issues:

Why it matters

Trust that our elections will be free and fair is the foundation of democracy.

Perhaps everything that Meyer and Fenumiai have done with this year’s elections is completely above board and legal (though the Alaska Supreme Court has disagreed several times already), but the consistent trend of decisions that cater to Republicans and the administration’s personal interests is eroding the trust that the elections have been run in a fair and even-handed manner.

“Either way, it’s hard to trust his administration to continue governing our elections,” Kohlhaas said, and it’s a feeling that I imagine many others are starting to feel.

With everything that’s already going on—from foreign interference in our elections to the president’s suggestions to delay the election or ignore its results or to simply interference in the mail system—the climate is already primed for voters regardless of their political stripes to have doubts about this election, leading to the dark possibility that a large portion of the population will doubt the outcome of November’s elections.

We’re not nearly that close to a collapse in Alaska, but it sure feels like the foundation is being chipped away.

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3 Comments on "Boy, the voting memes are fun but what we’d really like is a fair election"

  1. “With everything that’s already going on—from foreign interference in our elections to…”
    That’s a big fat ‘ALLEGED’ you left out of that sentence.
    Show me where that has been proven in a Court of Law.

    • Thank-you for establishing that a lawsuit is required to determine if State law was followed in preparing the November ballots. The reporting already established the change was done covertly without public notice.

  2. That said, it’s part and parcel of the organized Republican party effort nationwide to disrupt and disenfranchise. I’m not holding the Democrats beyond excoriation either, but this is a more radical turn in Alaska politics, only superseded by the great 2009 gerrymandering by John Torgenson who ripped this state apart and gave us SB 21 to our ever-emptier state treasury pockets. These guys (nd their female counterparts) are rabid when it comes to giving away this state’s peoples’ money. They all get their kickbacks after leaving “public service.” Again, the Dems are no lily-white exemplars of either altruism or playing by the law. But this Republican effort is well-documented via Greg Palast and it’s something everyone should find edifying, let alone necessary to comprehend the scope of the skulduggery going down across the fruited plains.
    https://www.gregpalast.com/

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