Making good on long-running rumors, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer announced today that he will not be on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s re-election ticket.
Meyer made an announcement at a news conference billed as the rollout for an election integrity bill. The legislation’s lead change would end the state’s automatic voter registration system tied to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend registration approved by voters in 2016 in an apparent bid to win over far-right critics.
During the news conference, Meyer said his decision to effectively end his political career was based on a desire to oversee the 2022 elections and the pending bill (of which similar efforts have already stalled out in the Legislature, giving it little chance of finding new traction in 2022) fairly.
“I need to be impartial so I can meet these challenges head on, without any appearance at bias or conflict,” he said. “I think that’s extremely important as far as voter trust and confidence in our election process.”
Gov. Dunleavy has long been rumored to be considering a change in his running mate, with rumors that Anchorage Republican Sen. Mia Costello or former assistant secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney could be on the short list for options. Sweeney was recently named the co-chair of U.S. Rep. Don Young’s re-election campaign. Naming a new running mate quickly would give the Dunleavy campaign three days and change to name a new running mate and get in on the 2021 fundraising window.
Unlike previous elections where party-backed gubernatorial candidates would have their running mate selected by a party primary, the introduction of the state’s new voter-approved ranked choice voting system means gubernatorial candidates of any kind are now charged with picking their own running mate.
For his own sake, Dunleavy has been cagey about whether he’d keep Meyer on for a potential second term, answering questions from Alaska Public Media in August on whether Meyer would be his running mate with, “As of now, yes.” In early December, Dunleavy promised to make a decision before the holidays.
Meyer has been a flashpoint for far-right criticism, particularly over the results of the 2020 election. The sentiment echoed much of the national conspiratorial theories about the 2020 election and were unabated by Meyer’s call to conduct an audit of the result for Ballot Measure 2. The audit not only found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, but it found that the machine-tabulated results were incredibly accurate.
The newly rolled out election bill appears to be an attempt to appease those critics and seems to borrow many of the concepts first introduced by Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Shower, legislation that largely stalled as election conspiracies took over and dashed whatever energy there was for actually needed election reforms. Gone, though, is Shower’s call for the state’s entire election system to be moved to a blockchain system akin to what’s used for cryptocurrency and NFTs. Here’s the bullet points:
- A repeal of the automatic voter registration system voters approved in 2016, moving it to an opt-in system that supporters have generally argued undermines the whole idea of automatic voter registration.
- Changes to how the state maintains its voter list file, making it easier to strike voters from the rolls for various reasons. Requires a “subject-matter expert” to audit the list every other year.
- Creates a toll-free hotline for individuals to report “questionable activity at the polls.”
- Requires the state to buy new “signature verification equipment” but the bills “pays the postage cost for return envelopes.” Also requires a bill tracking system, akin to what Anchorage has already implemented.
- Ends the permanent absentee (by-mail) registration, requiring voters to renew their absentee status every four years.
- Creates a ballot curing process, which is good… if people know they need to cure something.
- Allows the Division of Elections to have some “smaller communities and villages” conduct by-mail state elections “should it be required to give some Alaskans the chance to vote, even during a pandemic.”
- “New regulations for routine forensic examinations and chain of custody protocols.”
- “More thorough” definitions of election crimes.
- Creation of a police training course so police officers can investigate election crimes themselves.