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State of Alaska Releases 2010 Election Report

April 01, 2011|By Chris Klint | KTUU.com
Rick Schleyer/KTUU-DT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A long-awaited state review of the 2010 election was released Friday, recommending some 34 changes in election procedures to strengthen ballot security and improve public notice of election procedures.

Many state lawmakers called for the review after last year’s fiercely contested U.S. Senate race, in which challenger Joe Miller won the Republican primary over Sen. Lisa Murkowski -- who staged a write-in bid to reclaim her seat, winning by more than 10,000 votes according to the state Division of Elections.

After the election, Miller sued the state over its efforts to determine voter intent on write-in ballots, citing state statute to claim only votes with the oval filled in and Murkowski’s name spelled perfectly should count. That view was rejected by the Alaska Supreme Court, which cited federal precedent establishing the role of voter intent in its ruling for the state.

The review, conducted by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, the Division of Elections, and the Department of Law, includes both an analysis of state election law and comments from the public. Among its recommendations:

•    Changing Alaska statutes to clarify procedures for counting write-in ballots, and allowing the director of elections to disregard misspellings or other minor variations in the form of a candidate's name, as long as voter intent can be ascertained. 
 
•    Changing Alaska statutes to no longer require that write-in candidates file a letter of intent in order for their votes to count, and moving the deadline for that declaration to 21 days before a general election; and
 
•    Continuing an independent, third-party study on ballot security by the University of Alaska originated by former Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell.

“None of the changes in statute or procedure suggested by our review would have changed the results of the 2010 election,” said Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. “They will, however, respond to the concerns of Alaska voters and streamline procedures in the future. Alaskans can be confident that their voices and votes were heard and accounted for.”

Treadwell also mentioned changes that would make it easier for members of the military to vote, including accepting other methods of electronic transmission beyond faxes and working with the Department of Defense to reopen polling places on Alaska’s military bases.

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Randy DeSoto, spokesman for Miller, sent out a release saying that after reviewing the report, they would have a more detailed response.

The release said Miller was pleased about better facilitating military personnel voting and procedural change including ballot security, ineligible felons voting, election worker training, among other things.

"One issue that still needs addressed, in our view, is the standard used in determining voter intent. While we understand the motivation for adopting voter intent as the law, its application remains problematic (including a failure to inspire public confidence) without clear guidelines," DeSoto said.

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