ANCHORAGE - To qualify for a Permanent Fund dividend check, Alaska men between 18 and 25 will have to sign up with the federal draft registry, under a new state law effective Jan. 1.
The state plans to forward information from the dividend applications to the federal government, which will automatically register the eligible Alaska males who haven't already signed up. Practically every Alaskan gets a yearly dividend check from the state's oil-royalty fund.
Under federal law, men are supposed to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18. Failure to register is technically punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000. But many people don't do it.
The state Legislature and the U.S. government wanted more Alaskans on the list, which the military would use to draft troops. There hasn't been a draft in the United States since 1973.
Members of the Alaska Libertarian Party argue that the state shouldn't be aiding a federal effort to force Alaskans into the military.
"A lot of people aren't going to like it," Alaska Libertarian Party chair Scott Kohlhaas told the Anchorage Daily News.
The Legislature passed the law two years ago. It also included requirements, which went into effect in July, that Alaskans be registered with the federal Selective Service in order to get a state job or a state student loan. Then-state Rep. Lisa Murkowski, who is now a U.S. senator, sponsored the bill.
In other states, federal officials have urged state legislators to make Selective Service registration a requirement for getting a driver's license. But they came up with a better idea in Alaska, said Debby Bielanski, acting director of the regional Selective Service office in Denver.
"When they looked at Alaska, they felt the most efficient way to reach the greatest number of people would be through tying compliance with Selective Service to the Permanent Fund dividend," she said
Nearly every Alaskan applies for the annual dividend check. The state sent out $1,107 checks to about 600,000 Alaskans this fall. That's about 94 percent of the population.
In Alaska, 76 percent of 18-year-old men registered last year, according to the Selective Service. Men are supposed to remain registered until they turn 26 years old.
Eighty-eight percent of Alaska males had registered prior to their 26th birthday. Some states, such as Arkansas and Delaware, report almost perfect compliance.