Groups File Legal Challenge Against Lt. Governor to Protect Voter Rights
Join as Intervenors in Lawsuit to Ensure Safe Voting for All
Today, groups filed a motion to intervene in support of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the decision of Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer to limit access to absentee ballots for the upcoming August primary election and the November general election. The Lt. Governor decided to mail absentee ballot applications to only registered Alaskans 65 and older, thus discriminating against all other qualified Alaska voters. The groups, including Alaska Community Action on Toxics, The Alaska Center Education Fund, and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai’i (PPVNH), are seeking an injunction to require the State of Alaska to send absentee ballot applications to all qualified voters, regardless of age, in both the primary and general elections of 2020.
The conduct of safe elections is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic and in light of recent spikes in coronavirus cases in Alaska. The groups allege that the Lt. Governor’s decision discriminates against younger voters, Alaska Native people, and people of color. Alaska Community Action on Toxics, The Alaska Center Education Fund, and PPVNH filed the motion to intervene in support of the recent voting rights lawsuit (Disability Law Center et al. v. Kevin Meyer, Lieutenant Governor of Alaska and the State of Alaska Division of Elections, July 17) to ensure all voters can safely exercise their constitutional right to vote.
“Voting rights are sacred and hard won,” said Vi Waghiyi, Native Village of Savoonga Tribal Member and Environmental Health and Justice Program Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “The Lt. Governor’s decision effectively suppresses voter participation among our young people, Alaska Native communities, and people with disabilities. We must ensure that everyone has equal access and means to participate in safe and secure voting. It couldn’t be more important than during this pandemic.”
“For Alaska to thrive, we need healthy communities and a strong democracy. Our democracy works best when all eligible Alaskan voters can participate and have their voices heard,” said Polly Carr, The Alaska Center Education Fund Executive Director. “The Lt. Governor’s decision is a direct hit to our democracy, and a threat to the health of Alaskans especially during a pandemic, in which an exponential number of voters need absentee ballots. This is an attempt to manipulate our elections, and the result will be a severely compromised democracy. Is that what the Lt. Governor wants for Alaska?”
“This is blatant and discriminatory voter suppression,” said Jessica Cler, PPVNH Alaska State Director. “In the middle of a global pandemic we should be able to rely on our leaders to both keep us safe and ensure that our democratic principles are upheld by providing equal access to voting. The Lt. Governor’s actions fail at both: BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities—who are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19—will be put at greater risk in order to exercise their right to vote; and BIPOC, young people, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes will face additional hurdles to voting. Our leaders should be doing everything in their power to increase access to voting, not limit it.”
Absentee voting offers a safe, secure method of voting that will prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Based on 2018 demographic data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, voters who are over 65 are disproportionately white, so by sending absentee ballots to voters 65 and older, the Lt. Governor and the Division of Elections is discriminating against voters who are younger, Alaska Native, and people of color. Seventy-seven percent of Alaska voters who are 65 and older are white compared with 23% Alaska Native and American Indians, Black, Asian and Pacific Island people combined. The Lt. Governor’s prescribed absentee ballot option limits access to many rural voters who might have limited internet connectivity and other barriers to participation. The state received $3 million in funding through the CARES act to conduct safe elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, so cost is not an obstacle given that the
estimated cost to mail applications to all Alaskans is $120,000 or less.
The groups are represented by attorneys Tom Amodio and Keri-Ann Baker of Reeves Amodio LLC. The motion was filed today in the US District Court for the District of Alaska.