House State Affairs hears expert testimony on vote-by-mail procedures
JUNEAU – The House State Affairs Committee held a hearing earlier this week on vote-by-mail elections in response to a provision included in Senate Bill 241 – an Alaska COVID-19 Emergency Relief Bill – that allows the lieutenant governor to conduct elections by mail during the pandemic.
The committee heard testimony from experts from around the country about how governments are using vote-by-mail to enable safe participation in the democratic process.
“As we’ve seen from Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and elsewhere, voting by mail makes voting easier. More people vote. That’s a good thing. And common sense makes clear that voting at home massively reduces unnecessary public health risk relating to COVID,” State Affairs Co-Chair Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) said after the hearing.
State Affairs Co-Chair Zack Fields (D-Anchorage) added, “The testimony we heard proved that proactively sending absentee ballot requests to voters would help ensure we maintain ballot access even during a pandemic.”
The committee heard from three experts:
• Amber McReynolds, Executive Director of the National Vote at Home Institute, who detailed safeguards vote-by-mail states use to verify ballot signatures and protect the integrity of elections.
• Wendy Underhill, Director of Elections and Redistricting at National Conference of State Legislatures, who discussed measures other states are taking to adapt election systems for the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted that some states are transitioning to vote-by-mail systems for their entire primary and general election.
• Barbara Jones, Municipal Clerk at the Municipality of Anchorage, who talked about the municipality’s new vote-by-mail system. She commented on the rarity of voter fraud and how Anchorage’s vote-by-mail system could help support a statewide vote-by-mail election.
The Office of the Lieutenant Governor and Division of Elections were invited to testify but declined to appear before the committee.
Representative Kreiss-Tomkins put on record a study by Stanford University which determined that vote-by-mail increases voter turnout but does not increase either political party’s share of votes. The committee also reviewed a committee substitute for HB 150, Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins vote-by-mail bill, which can be viewed here.
The full hearing can be viewed here on Gavel Alaska.