Ballot measure one: Automatic Voter Registration and the PFD

November’s election offers Alaskans the opportunity to combine voter registration with PFD registration. The ballot measure makes it so when residents register for their Permanent Fund Dividend, they also register themselves to vote. The ballot measure will affect all those of voting age. It is estimated by state officials that the total costs of measure one is $942,885.

When an Alaska resident goes to register for their PFD, voter info would be provided to the Division of Elections where the resident would be registered to vote. The voter information provided in the PFD registration remains confidential.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich are both in support of the ballot measure, which will ensure Alaskans who wish to receive dividends the ability to register to vote as well. Combining two registrations into one may be more convenient for many Alaskans.

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

“It’s a classic ‘two birds one stone’ policy measure that increase’s the efficiency and convenience of voter registration and saves the Division of Elections money at a time when we need to ring every possible extra dollar out of the budget,” Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, a member of the Alaska House of Representatives said.

Others disagree with the ballot, thinking it will cost the already financially crippled state more money than the measure merits.

“I think it’s a bad idea. It’s so easy to register to vote, why waste money the state doesn’t have to combine the registration with the PFD?” Charne Rudd, a nursing student at UAA said.

Qualified voters who wish to apply to vote, but not register for the PFD can still do so. While those who are applying for the PFD, but wish to withhold their voter registration will still be allowed to do so. This ballot measure, if passed, will not impact eligibility for the PFD, nor will it reduce the PFD in any way.

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Anchorage Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar has played a critical role in promoting ballot measure one, claiming it will be the beginning of one of the most sophisticated registration systems in the nation.

“Automatic Voter Registration, also called ballot measure one, will give Alaska the most universal, accurate and secure registration system in the history of the country. It will improve [the] efficiency of the government, save money and improve convenience by halving the number of government forms most qualified Alaskans will have to fill out,” Dunbar said. “I very much hope UAA students will support ballot measure one, as they’ll be some of the biggest beneficiaries. It would be a point of civic pride to me if Alaska had the best voter registration system in the country — the most efficient, the most secure.”

The state of Alaska, known for its transient and seasonal population, has less-than-average accuracy in voter rolls.

“Aside from the fact that many Alaskans aren’t registered, it’s also important to realize Alaska has some of the worst accuracy in our voter rolls in the country,” Dunbar said. “This leads to a bunch of problems, including a lot of questioned ballots on election day, which have to be hand-processed. Because most qualified Alaskans already provide their information annually through the PFD, we have a great database with which to update their registration, not just the first time, but annually. This will dramatically reduce the number of questioned ballots.”

Voting yes for ballot measure one indicates support for voting-age Alaska residents to register to vote through their PFD application. Voting no opposes the proposal, keeping the PFD registration separate from the voter registration.