Point of View: Making voting accessible

The recent Special Primary Election was the first time Alaska conducted an all mail-in ballot election. This was primarily due to time constraints. We now see this has been an opportunity to listen to and try to understand why some voters feel voting is inaccessible to them.

What does the Alaska Division of Elections currently do to make voting accessible to all its citizens? They do a lot as written in this article, but they also need to hear from voters who feel removed from being able to vote. That is a voter’s right.

Let’s start with this Special Election. While all voters received a mailed ballot — in case they didn’t get it, lost it in the car or busy table, the dog ate it, whatever — they also had an opportunity to go to elections.alaska.org or call the elections office 907-465-4611 to request another, or go to an absentee voting location (Regional Election Site) two weeks prior to the official election day and either complete a mail-in ballot, or, in some designated areas, cast a ballot as you would normally do on election day. You could also take your completed mail-in ballot to those sites. These voting locations are always available two weeks prior to all official election days.

If you need assistance during any stage of the voting process, from registering to vote to casting a vote, the state elections office and election workers are available to help. The elections.alaska.org website has tons of information for assisting voters.

For all elections, voters can apply online for an absentee ballot. You must have a valid Alaska Driver’s License or state ID for this option. You can register to vote online as well, but it must be 30 days prior to an election.

If you cannot come in to a voting location to vote in person due to age, disability or illness, you can have a personal representative of your choice pick up a ballot for you either at an absentee voting location or, on election day, at your regular voting location.

On election day and at the early absentee voting locations that allow for regular ballot voting, there is a voting tablet intended for the blind, disabled and voters with reading difficulties, to use. These touch-screen voting units allow for unassisted voting through the use of a magnified, high contrast and audio ballot. When completed, a voter-verified paper ballot is printed out which the voter can verify and then cast as usual. Some voting tablets offer an audio ballot in various languages that varies by region and is also available at elections.alaska.org; click on “Language Assistance” in the top bar.

You can also apply for an Online Absentee Ballot Application. You must have a valid Alaska Driver’s License or state ID to use this option. For any other questions you may have on handicap accessible voting contact the Division of Elections or use the TTY telecommunications device by calling 907-465-3020.

You can be an informed voter. And remember, all votes count and all voices matter.

Therese Lewandowski is a member of Kenai Peninsula Votes.