More than 60 percent of signatures collected by the group behind a citizen’s initiative to revive the Alaska Coastal Management Program have been verified by an initial computer review.
The Alaska Sea Party submitted more than 33 thousand signatures to the state Division of Elections two weeks ago in hopes of qualifying the measure for this year’s statewide ballot. Division Director Gail Fenumiai says computer scanners verified more than 20 thousand of those as being from qualified registered voters, leaving more than 12 thousand to be verified manually.
“It’s not uncommon to have a high number of unqualified after the initial computer qualification phase,” Fenumiai says. “And what we do with those then is that we go back through and we do a manual search for that person in our voter registration system to see if they really are a true qualified voter in the State of Alaska.”
Fenumiai says a signature may not meet the computer qualification for any number of reasons.
“Say they signed the book as Jim Smith and they’re really James Smith in the voter registration system. The VR system would not match that, because it wasn’t an exact name match,” she says. “It could be somebody signed and put their driver’s license down as an identifier, but we don’t have their driver’s license in our VR system. So we’re able to get that information through other means and provide a match and say yes this person is a qualified voter.”
Fenumiai says manual qualification of signatures for the coastal management initiative started last Friday. She estimates it will take another three to four weeks to complete the process.
The news that many of the signatures did not pass the initial computer scan led to lots of unnecessary angst amongst lawmakers Tuesday. Senate President Gary Stevens said at a press conference that initiative backers “may not … have the numbers.”
But House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, who’s been involved with the Alaska Sea Party’s efforts, says the group sees no reason to panic.
“We are confident that in those names we’ll see yet again many more qualified voters. It’s as simple as that,” says Kerttula.
Lawmakers can bypass the citizen’s initiative by approving substantially similar legislation this session. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees are scheduled to hold a joint hearing on the issue next Monday, February 6th.
Until it closed last year, the Alaska Coastal Management Program allowed the state to put conditions on certain development in federal land and waters. It interacted with and received most of its funding through the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.
The program folded after legislators and the Parnell Administration failed to reach an agreement to reauthorize it.