Judge says she’ll toss the witness signature requirement for Alaskans who vote by mail

Nesbett Courthouse in downtown Anchorage on June 9, 2020 (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby says she intends to issue an injunction to eliminate the witness signature requirement for Alaskans who vote by mail in the November 2020 election, but her order isn’t final yet.

Lack of a witness signature is the most common reason the Division of Elections rejects ballots, and for now, the requirement remains in effect.

The Arctic Village tribe, the League of Women Voters and others challenged the requirement. They said, due to the pandemic, many voters would have trouble getting to the polls, especially in communities under lockdown orders. People who live alone and have compromised immune systems would have to put their health at risk to find a witness to observe their signature, the plaintiffs argued.

Judge Crosby agreed the witness signature would be a burden on the right to vote.

She also said she can’t see how the witness signature requirement is an effective tool to detect voter fraud.

The Division of Elections could not name a single instance where it played a role.

Crosby did not immediately issue an order blocking the witness requirement. She said she wanted to give the parties time to suggest what exactly the order should say, and for the state to pursue an appeal.

In the last presidential election, 27,000 Alaskans voted by mail. Many more are expected to do so this year. More than 97,000 Alaskans have received ballots already.

Around the country, hundreds of lawsuits are challenging various rules or trying to impose new ones. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court recently ruled that mailed ballots will be rejected if they are not in a privacy sleeve.

Alaska’s absentee-by-mail ballots come with a privacy sleeve, but using it is optional.

Alaska voters can request a mail-in ballot up to 10 days before the Nov. 3 election. That can be done online at https://absenteeballotapplication.alaska.gov or by calling the Division of Elections at 907-465-4611 or 1-866-952-8683.