Voter Intent Bill Passes Through House

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Voter intent would be the determining factor for counting write-in ballots in Alaska under a bill on its way to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 31 passed the House Wednesday on a 38-1 vote.

It puts into law recommendations of state and federal courts, as well as the office of Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, stemming from last fall’s U.S. Senate race.

After that election, Republican candidate Joe Miller sued the state over its handling of write-in ballots for his rival, Senator Lisa Murkowski. Miller’s lawsuits failed, but the courts agreed with him that the state’s election law is too vague.

On the House floor Thursday morning, Fairbanks Republican Steve Thompson said one of the goals of the bill is to limit future litigation over write-in votes.

Under the bill, voter intent for write-in ballots is determined by the director of the state Division of Elections. Making the same argument Miller made in his lawsuits, Wasilla Republican Wes Keller was the only lawmaker to vote against the bill. He said it puts too much power in the director’s hands.

The lawmakers who crafted SB 31 in committee felt it best to leave the responsibility of determining voter intent with one person. They argued the counting of write-in votes is always held in an open process in order to ensure integrity.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate back in February.

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