Lawsuit filed over ballot access in Alaska special primary

·2 min read

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A lawsuit alleges that Alaska's special primary for U.S. House, which is being conducted primarily by mail, deprives voters who are visually impaired of the ability to cast ballots privately and independently.

The lawsuit, dated Tuesday, was filed on behalf of Robert Corbisier, executive director of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights. It asks a judge to bar state elections officials from certifying the results of Saturday's special primary until visually impaired voters are given “a full and fair opportunity to participate."

The lawsuit also seeks “remedial measures to facilitate participation of visually impaired" voters in the special primary.

The defendants are the Division of Elections; Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who oversees elections; and Gail Fenumiai, the division director.

The Department of Law, in a statement, said it is reviewing the filing but said the Division of Elections "has systems in place to help all voters exercise their right to vote, even in a mail-in election."

The division “has serious concerns about the timing of this lawsuit and will ask that the court not upset the constitutionally and statutorily required special election, for which ballots were sent out over a month ago," the statement from the department said. “These issues could have been raised much earlier, and the Division has not done anything differently than what it has done in the past for absentee voting.”

The state has targeted June 25 to certify the results of the special primary.

The lawsuit states that a registered voter in Anchorage with a visual impairment, identified as B.L., filed a complaint with the commission last month, alleging in part that the division was “engaging in discrimination on the basis of a disability based on its failure to provide accessible ballots or voting machines throughout the state."

The lawsuit said that despite several meetings with the commission before and after the filing of B.L.'s complaint, the division “does not plan to place touch screen voting machines at more than five locations throughout the State.”

The division in late April began sending ballots to registered voters, and there have been opportunities for early and in-person voting in about 165 communities. Voters also can request to have ballots sent to them online or by fax. Ballots sent online can be returned by mail or fax.

The lawsuit details the instructions for folding and printing the ballot and other materials to return and says a need to depend on someone else to help with the process impacts voter privacy.

Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press

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