Proposal would allow Alaska lawmakers to vote remotely this session

Lawmakers sitting at a rased wooden desk
Alaska Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, preside over a failed vote in 2019 by the Legislature to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s line-item budget vetoes. (Aidan Ling/Gavel Alaska)

Alaska lawmakers adopted a proposal Monday that would allow legislators to vote remotely through the same digital voting board as in the Capitol building. The Legislature’s current rules require all lawmakers be present in each chamber to vote.

The Legislative Council, which oversees legislative business when the Legislature isn’t in session, approved up to $74,000 to implement a new emergency remote voting system — one day ahead of the new session.

The council’s action would pay for a new system. But for the system to be implemented, lawmakers would have to change the rules after they organize for this session.

The new system would allow lawmakers to vote from regional legislative information offices, or from their homes if they are quarantined or isolated.

Legislative staff estimate it will take 30 days to build the new remote voting system — but it could take less time to prepare a temporary solution allowing some legislators to vote from outside of the Capitol building.

In other business, the council amended the Legislature’s temporary safety rules to allow one news reporter to sit in a gallery during floor sessions. The council previously barred all news reporters. The safety rules could be changed again after the Senate and the House have chosen their presiding officers.