Behind the ballot: A look at Ballot Measures 1 and 2
When voters head to the polls, they’ll find more than decide on more than candidates — there are also two ballot measures up for consideration. Here’s a breakdown of what each one does, and opinions from those who support or oppose them.
Ballot Measure One: Linking PFD registration to voter registration
Here’s how it works: If someone is eligible to vote when applying for their Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, they’ll automatically be registered — unless they choose to opt-out of the registration. Applicants also have the option of updating their voter registration simultaneously.
The goal is to streamline the process, but the measure will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. The exact price tag isn’t clear. The Division of Elections estimated upstart costs at $942,885 with an additional $9,000 to conduct public hearings concerning the initiative. But supporters of the initiative say, in reality, it could be as little as a third of that cost.
“It’s kind of funny because the Lt. Governor’s office put out that pamphlet with the errors not updated,” said Erich Reed, part of the PFD Initiative group. “The pamphlet that went out from the Lt. Governor’s office is something that was started about two years ago and about two-thirds of that initiative has already been enacted, and all that was was to basically update the outdated voter registration which was about 30 years old.”
The division estimates an annual cost of about $30,000 to implement the measure, with most of that money going toward mailers to allow Alaskans to opt-out of the automatic registration.
Still, some say it’s a high price tag at the wrong time, as lawmakers are trying to trim the state’s annual budget.
“This is a voter initiative that is asking the government to spend more money, and it’s really a solution in search of a problem,” said Suzanne Downing, a conservative blogger and communications director for the Alaska Republican Party, who’s urged voters not to support the measure. “There are so many ways that people can register to vote; it’s available very widely in our state.”
Reed says the measure would only apply American citizens who are legally allowed to vote.
“When you apply for your PFD and you’re not an actual citizen, you have a lot more documentation to prove that you’re eligible for the PFD. They use all of that same information to verify your voter registration,” Reed said.
Ballot Measure Two: Allowing the state to back student loans
Here’s how it works: The measure would change the Alaska Constitution to allow the state to back bonds issued for student loans — as it does with housing loans for veterans. Because of its strong credit rating, the state’s backing could lower interest rates for young people — by about 1 percent, according to Sen. Anna Mackinnon, who sponsored the measure. The state wouldn’t be obligated to any payment unless a large number of students defaulted on the loans.
Currently, Mackinnon says Alaska’s students are below the national average when it comes to defaulting on loans.
“If everybody walked away, there is a slight risk that something could be required of the state,” Mackinnon said, adding that she doesn’t view it as a cost-shifting measure. “For me, it’s the only way available that’s no cost to the state, to tax payers that could significantly reduce, over the long-term, the debt that our students are carrying.”
At the early voting polls Friday, many said they supported the measure — but some said they disagreed with the principle behind it.
“If you know, you’re going to go back to school for post-secondary education that you should finance it yourself,” said Seth Rosenberger. “There are plenty of options, I think, for a person to do that today and, yeah, I don’t think it should be put on the state.”
Rosenberger acknowledged that the state would only cover costs in the event of a mass default on the loans.
“The chances of that happening I’m sure aren’t that great, but, I voted no,” Rosenberger said.
Voting this weekend
If you haven’t made it out to vote yet, the polls are open this weekend at two locations in Southcentral, both open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and again from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Div. of Elections Office
2525 Gambell St. Suite 100
Anchorage, AK 99503
Matanuska-Susitna Elections Office
North Fork Professional Building
1700 E. Bogard Rd, Suite B 1o2
Wasilla, AK 99654
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. To find your polling location, visit the Division of Elections website.
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