State rates high in election reform
JUNEAU -- Alaska is one of only two states to get an 'A' on an election reform report card issued by the Common Cause Education Fund.
The public policy group reviewed state election systems in the wake of the irregular presidential balloting in Florida last year.
"Soon, it became clear that Florida was the rule, not the exception," the group's report says. "Almost every state was a Florida waiting to happen. ... Most states made no improvements. A few even regressed."
Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, whose office oversees elections, noted that Alaska reformed its procedures "before we had a problem."
The state has switched largely to optical scanning of ballots in the past few years, avoiding lost votes from faulty punch cards. An appropriation of $300,000 will be sought in the Legislature to complete the transition in the few remaining precincts without the Accu-Vote system, Ulmer said.
Alaska also has a statewide voter registration system, as opposed to the patchwork quilt of city and county registration in many states in the Lower 48.
Minnesota, which also got an 'A' in 2000 and 2001, was the only other state to receive the top grade in either year.
Officials find dead dogs in Sterling
ANCHORAGE -- Two dead dogs were discovered inside an old tourist bus a Sterling woman was using as a kennel, and two other dead dogs were found frozen to the ground outside, Alaska State Troopers said Tuesday.
Carolyn Boughton, 56, has until Friday to provide adequate food and shelter for between 45 and 60 dogs she keeps. Otherwise, troopers say they will confiscate the animals.
Veterinarian Jerry Nybakken, who accompanied the troopers, said they found about 30 dogs inside the bus, which had one small vent window and reeked of urine and feces. The dogs were housed in two tiers of homemade plywood dog boxes.
"The dogs were matted in fecal matter," he said.
Boughton, who was breeding the dogs, kept Kerry Blue Terriers on the top tier and larger Bouvier des Flandres on the bottom. Two terriers died when their legs slipped through cracks in the plywood and became wedged in place.
Both of the dead dogs found outside were Bouviers. One of them died when its legs became entangled in its tie-out chain, troopers said. Two dead cats also were found.
Troopers may seek cruelty-to-animal charges punishable by a $5,000 fine and one year in jail.
More hunting for brown bears
ANCHORAGE -- The state Board of Game will allow the killing of more grizzly bears on the Seward Peninsula in Northwest Alaska.
Residents said bears have been killing many moose calves and destroying property, such as ripping up four-wheeler seats and even airplanes.
The board voted 4-3 Monday to allow residents and nonresident hunters to take one brown bear annually. Hunters had been permitted to kill one bear every four years, except in special subsistence areas where Alaska residents can take one bear a year for meat.
The board also voted to open the brown bear hunting season a month earlier, expand the boundaries for the special subsistence hunt and slightly increase the number of permits allowing nonresidents to kill brown bears.
Critics of the new regulations said the state doesn't know if bear numbers have increased, and the rules may lead to an overharvest.