The Alaska House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday loosening state regulations on absentee voting in the hopes of increasing voter turnout.
House Bill 115, introduced by Anchorage Democratic Rep. Chris Tuck, seeks to add a permanent absentee ballot option to Alaska’s absentee voting system.
Currently, the state Division of Elections only allows permanent absentee voting for a select few demographics, including people with disabilities and those in remote locations. Those on a permanent absentee voter list must still fill out an application for an absentee ballot every year.
If HB 115 passes, those on the permanent list would automatically receive an absentee ballot each year without having to reapply.
The goal, Tuck noted, is to increase participation in elections, particularly by residents of more remote communities who may not be able to access a voting booth but are able to receive and send mail.
“Exercising the right to vote is key to a strong democracy. House Bill 115 removes barriers to this right by making it more convenient to vote by mail in Alaska,” Tuck said. “Absentee voting is voting by mail. By simply adding a box to check on the absentee ballot application, Alaskans can routinely vote by mail, resulting in more participation and a stronger democracy.”
Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Grier Hopkins was one of the House cosponsors of the bill.
“Securely enfranchising Alaskans’ fundamental right to vote is one of our paramount responsibilities. I’m proud of our work to pass House Bill 115 today. This bill is long overdue, and I look forward to more Alaskans having an easier time voting in the future,” Hopkins said in a statement.
HB 115 passed 24-15 along caucus lines. Healy Republican Rep. Dave Talerico was the only Interior lawmaker to vote against the bill.
The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.