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Resolution Supports Voter Registration on PFD app

Alaska Division of Elections

A resolution in front of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly tonight would oppose Senate Bill 39, which is sponsored by Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Shower. SB 39 would undo part of the 2016 citizen initiative that put automatic voter registration into Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend application.

It would mean Alaskans could register to vote when applying for their PFD, but they would need to opt in, rather than opt out.

The 2016 initiative was approved by almost 65% of voters . Since then, more than 70,000 more Alaskans registered to vote between October of 2016 and January of 2021.

“I keep being told this is the will of the people. But a third of the people didn’t want it. And why didn’t they want it? Because they did not want to be automatically registered to vote to get their PFD.”

Shower filed a similar bill in 2019, which would have repealed the initiative. This year, his staff asked people on social media what they thought of the automatic voter registration.

“There’s a host of Alaskans who want to register for their PFD, but don’t want to be forced to register. People go, ‘Why not?’ I don’t know, ask them. But we have had hundreds of people tell us they don’t want that.”

Shower says the bill is to prevent voter fraud, and streamline the state’s voter rolls. A consequence of the initiative is that there are now more voters than adults in Alaska. There are 546,420 people over the age of 18, according to the Department of Labor’s July estimate. 599704 registered voters as of January, 2021, according to the Division of Elections.

The Division purges voter roles every year, and compares data with 29 other states that participate in the Electronic Registration Information Center.

The bill has been criticized as a fix for something that is not broken. In municipal and statewide elections in 2020 that were complicated by the pandemic and a record voter turnout, there were no reported incidents of fraud.

The resolution, sponsored by Assembly members Leah Berman Williams, Marna Sanford and Mindy O’neal, says efforts to increase the ability of Alaskans to vote in any secure way possible, should be increased, not decreased.

The resolution says that because the state’s Permanent Fund Division already uses fraud detection to prevent voter registration fraud, Alaska has the most accurate voter database in the country.