Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Supplemental budget heads to governor

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JUNEAU - A supplemental budget bill was approved Tuesday by the Alaska Senate and now heads to Gov. Frank Murkowski for his signature.

The compromise spending bill agreed upon in conference committee is meant to cover unexpected costs of state government that were incurred this year. New programs are also included, such as $3.75 million to two groups to lobby Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

The spending package totals more than $700 million. Of that, $600 million is going into the state's public education fund and the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. as places to stash a portion of Alaska's $1.4 billion surplus this year.

The Senate approved the conference committee report 16-4.

The Senate on Tuesday also approved a conference committee report on a bill that would recriminalize marijuana possession in the home and make it harder to buy the ingredients to manufacture methamphetamine.

The House was holding the drug bill under unfinished business. It will be transmitted to Murkowski only when the House approves the report.

The bills are Senate Bill 232 and House Bill 149.

Democrats sue state for election records

ANCHORAGE - Alaska Democrats want a judge to order the release of electronic voting records from the 2004 statewide election.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Anchorage Superior Court, the Alaska Democratic Party asked for public records from the Division of Elections needed to verify the 2004 election results.

"We are asking the court to release these public records so that the people of Alaska can be assured that their votes were counted correctly," said Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe in a prepared statement. "The Division of Elections' numbers do not add up."

The division has refused to release public records that would allow Democrats to verify the results, he said.

The Democrats have been trying to get the records for months. They say there are large discrepancies in some statewide vote summaries and in district-by-district totals for the same races.

In the 2004 presidential election, district-by-district counts show 292,268 votes cast for George Bush. The statewide summary shows 190,889 votes.

A total of the district tallies showed U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski receiving 226,992 votes. The statewide summary showed her getting 149,446 votes.

Elections officials have said some discrepancies are because early votes for statewide candidates were counted by each of the state's election regions, not by district. The regional totals then were reported for every House district, which inflated those totals, they have said.

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