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(Fairbanks)—Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott congratulated Alaska Federation of Native’s 2016 Citizen of the Year Mike Toyukak Thursday morning during AFN’s 50th annual convention in Fairbanks.
Toyukak and others sued the State of Alaska in 2013 for lack of language assistance for voters with limited proficiency in English in the Dillingham and Kusilvak Census Areas and for Gwich’in-speaking voters in the Yukon-Koyukok Census Area.
Mallott inherited the Toyukak vs. Treadwell language assistance lawsuit when he was sworn into office on December 1, 2014. Alaska’s Lt. Governor oversees the Division of Elections as part of his duties. “I knew that we could not begin our journey to make Alaska’s election process one of the best in the country until this case was settled,” said Lt. Gov. Mallott. “I was in the village of Manokotak, where Mike and his wife Anecia live, on Primary Election Day in August. It was wonderful to see voters with full access to bilingual workers and ballots.”
The case, originally filed in June 2013 on behalf of Toyukak and elders Fred Augustine of Alakanuk, and the tribal governments of Arctic Village, Hooper Bay, Togiak and Venetie.
Alaska’s 2016 Official Election Pamphlet (OEP) is in six dialects of Yup’ik and in Gwich’in for the first time in the history of our state. This effort was made possible through the work and collaboration of Division staff and 14 panel members who are native speakers, teachers, linguists and elders. Original copies of the OEP will be sent to Tribal Councils statewide.
Mallott wrote a letter in support of Bristol Bay Native Corporation’s nomination of Toyukak as AFN Citizen of the Year.
Mallott visited the Division of Election’s AFN booth Thursday afternoon. Staffed by Director Josie Bahnke, the new Language Assistance Compliance Manager Indra Arriaga and Gwich’in Panel Members the booth will have an interactive and audio display for Alaska Natives to hear the ballot measures in several languages, including Northern Inupiaq.