Begich stands by voting access comments

Alaska Senator Mark Begich is standing by statements he made about voting access in Alaska after a state official criticized those remarks.

In his annual address to the Alaska Legislature this week, Begich said he’s concerned about recent trends in the state making voting more difficult, especially for Alaska Natives and other minorities. He said the Parnell Administration has fought against Native language ballots and is seeking to overturn part of the federal Voting Rights Act.

In a letter to Begich on Wednesday, Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai strongly disputed that the state has imposed any obstacles to voting. She also said Alaska is not challenging the section of the Voting Rights Act that mandates a “robust” language assistance program.

Begich Spokeswoman Heather Handyside responded Thursday. In a statement she said the Senator’s remarks “were accurate and reflect the troubling experiences he’s been hearing from many rural Alaskans.” She also called it “sadly ironic” that Fenumiai cited the Voting Rights Act, parts of which the Parnell administration has sought to change or do away with in court.

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