Justice Department watching Alaska election for language and disability compliance

blue sign in front of observers
Observers from the U.S. Department of Justice examine the accessibility of a polling place in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley during the Aug. 16, 2022 primary election. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday it is monitoring Alaska’s election to ensure compliance with two laws, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The effort is aimed at maintaining compliance with the voting law’s minority language requirements and the disability act’s accessibility requirements, the department said in a statement.

The monitoring is underway in certain jurisdictions, the department said: Anchorage, Juneau and the Bethel, Dillingham and Kusilvak census areas.

The department has already been monitoring early and absentee voting in various parts of the state: Anchorage, Juneau, the Kenai Peninsula, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Denali Borough, the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area.

Officials with the department did not respond to questions about the monitoring plans.

Tiffany Montemayor, public relations manager for the Alaska Division of Elections, said the Department of Justice had notified the division about its plans to be in the state.

Alaska has had a mixed record of providing services for voters who speak Native languages, despite some court orders to do so. A 2019 report prepared by the Alaska Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights detailed significant deficiencies in management of the 2016 election, with lapses especially in required Yup’ik translations of election material.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice took other action to correct what it determined to be lapses in Alaska’s compliance with the “motor voter” provision of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

Under an agreement announced in June, the state committed to fully integrating voter-registration options into all applications for drivers’ licenses. The state also committed to a better system to update voter address information, and it agreed to appoint a voter-registration coordinator for the entire Division of Motor Vehicles and to appoint local coordinators at each DMV site.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

For more elections news visit alaskapublic.org/elections.

Previous articleAlaskans head to the polls in state’s first ranked choice election
Next articleAlaska News Nightly: Tuesday, August 16, 2022