When the House State Affairs Committee took up HB 94 dealing with various reforms to our election process, Rep. Berta Gardner introduced an amendment calling for automatic manual counts of election results of at least 1 precinct per district. And the precinct is to have at least 5 percent of the district's voters in it.
I applaud Rep. Gardner's effort to put this idea forward. I believe it is an important element in improving Alaska elections and would give citizens greater confidence in the democratic process.
While the House State Affairs Committee did not see fit to add that provision to its version of the bill, the House Judiciary, Senate State Affairs, and Senate Judiciary committees should take up this excellent idea and include it in the legislation currently before them.
Some may say we do not have a problem of computer hacking in Alaska that would indicate a need for such measures. It would be wise to be proactive in setting procedures in place that would uncover any such tampering should there be a reason to suspect it some time in the future. This is not a wild speculation. There are well-founded suspicions that this may have occurred elsewhere already.
We should oppose any bill that raises the fee for requesting a hand recount. It was extremely hard to raise the $10,000 fee currently in Alaska law. Provisions that would tie recount fees to a margin of difference between candidates wouldn't make much sense, since anyone bent on fraud involving programming could get whatever margin they wanted.
And an increase in the price of statewide recounts from $10,000 to $50,000 to start, and responsibility for anything the Division of Elections spends over that amount, currently part of the House State Affairs version of HB 94, would be a serious setback for democratic processes for the citizens of Alaska and should be removed.
Another important electoral reform that should be adopted would let felons vote again once released from prison, even if on probation or parole.