JUNEAU — The state of Alaska is seeking to replace a voter registration system seen as outdated in time for next year’s elections.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who oversees elections, said Thursday that the current system is old and it’s hard to make minor changes to it without the risk of crashing the system.
The system also isn’t integrated with other agency databases, such as that for the Division of Motor Vehicles, meaning that when drivers are asked if they want to register to vote, the division must mail or fax that information to election officials, and someone must manually update the voter database, he said.
That’s “absolutely absurd,” he said.
The state seeks a system that would make it easier for voters to register or update information online, he said. It also is aimed at helping manage elections. He said a goal is for each precinct to have an electronic poll book, which would provide “real-time” updates of voter history — such as whether someone at a poll site also applied for an absentee ballot and the status of that ballot — and the ability to import and display a voter’s photo from Motor Vehicles.
Treadwell said this could help reduce wait times at polling places, as well as the number of questioned ballots. He said it also would increase security at the polls.
The state has attempted to replace the system before. Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said the prior attempt several years ago, before Treadwell was in office, resulted in one responsive bidder who wound up unable to provide what the state wanted. She said that contract was terminated.
The budget for the work is $3.5 million to $5 million, which is money that Treadwell said the Division of Elections had been saving for this kind of project.