Native Groups Sue State Over Voting Practices

The state must provide certain regions of Alaska with interpreters at polling stations. A 2010 decision ruled that a woman in Bethel had her voting rights violated because she was not provided with sufficient Yupik interpretation services.

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James Tucker, of counsel with Wilson Elser, litigated the earlier suit, and brought the new case in Anchorage Friday.

“All of the things the state said it was going to do in the Bethel region and apply statewide to all Yupik speakers, they just simply haven’t done it,” he said by phone from his office in Nevada Monday.

The new case takes place in two regions adjoining Bethel: the Wade Hampton and Dillingham census areas.

Tucker said  many of the interpreters at polling stations do not understand what they’re supposed to do. And oftentimes they’re incapable of translating legal jargon such as ballot initiatives into local languages.

“What we’re seeing and what led to this lawsuit isn’t that they’re doing the bare minimum of what’s required by the law, because they’re not,” he said. “They’re doing the bare minimum to get away with what they think they can without being sued.”

The earlier case took three years to finalize so any ruling could be years away.

Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell is listed as a defendant. So is Division of Elections director Gail Fenumiai. She declined to comment, because she said the state has yet seen the lawsuit.

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