(Jeff O’donell has invested thousands of hours securing our nation’s elections. I was proud to stand with him at the moment of truth summit in Springfield, Missouri)
In physics, the law of entropy predicts that in a closed system things will move to greater disorder over time. Within government this is certainly true. Without adequate oversight and accountability, every program run by government will tend to disorder. One need look no further than the post office and the IRS to see examples of this.
Who you vote for should be secret, but that is the only part of our election process that should be kept secret from the public. Unfortunately, the right to cast a secret ballot has been used as an excuse to reject calls for oversight and accountability of our election processes, with horrifying results.
When the Alaska Democratic Party sought answers about failures in the 2000 presidential election, the state refused their requests and the Alaska Supreme Court later announced that the method by which votes were counted in Alaska was a “proprietary” process, which the public had no right to know.
In a free society, elections must be Free, Fair and Open. Those eligible to run for office and to vote must be able to do so free from coercion and intimidation. Each vote must count the same. And the process by which votes are counted must be open and able to be observed by members of all parties, including independent candidates and election watchdog groups.
If we are honest with ourselves, Alaska has a very poor track record when it comes to election integrity. The 2010 election of Lisa Murkowski was mired in scandal. In 2016, some 50 voters were each allowed to cast two ballots in the House District 40 race, a race which was won by only 8 votes, and which permitted the Alaska House of Representatives to flip to Democrat control for the first time in more than twenty years.
In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, the Alaska Division of Elections ignored warnings that their IT systems were vulnerable and were subsequently hacked, resulting in the theft of information on more than 100,000 Alaska voters. Worse, it wasn’t until three days after the election was certified that the public and affected candidates were informed of the data breach.
These are just a handful of examples of where our state elections processes have fallen short. There are many others.
In the cases above, there were no prosecutions, despite it being clear that election laws had been broken. No one was demoted. No one was fired. In fact, the same individual who oversaw the election of Lisa Murkowski in 2010 remains in charge of our state division of elections today.
Before the 2020 elections, a report was commissioned at taxpayer expense to evaluate our elections process and provide recommendations on needed improvements. Now, more than two years after it was published, each of the report’s recommendations remain hidden from public view. Even legislators like myself have been denied access to the full report. That is not a process that is open to public inspection.
Those armed only with these facts must conclude that instead of being “Free, Fair and Open”, Alaska’s elections are Closed, sometimes Unfair, and the information to determine if they are Free remains hidden from public view.
In the 2022 election, we have also seen a new type of attack on Free Elections in the form of lawsuits filed to discourage candidates (myself included) from running for office. If candidates are prevented by specious lawsuits from running for office and having their names placed on the ballot, you do not have a Free election.
From where I sit, the greatest obstacle to election integrity in Alaska is a sense of entitlement on the part of those entrusted with managing our elections process. The process of voting belongs to the people of Alaska. It is the act by which the people grant their consent to those who will exercise the power of government on their behalf. That process may be managed by government agencies, but it is not owned by them.
Accordingly, those entrusted with managing our elections process do so as a fiduciary responsibility. The people have the right to inquire as to whether that responsibility is being exercised appropriately at any time. They have a right to transparency in that process. They have a right to know whether that process is secure from unlawful interference.
As a participant in that process, and as someone who has served as an election worker on Election Day, and spoken with others who have as well, my conclusion is that it is not secure. Instead of taking the difficult steps to secure it, some have instead chosen to cover up our current election vulnerabilities through obscurity. In 2022, that approach no longer works.
The message “Just trust us” may have worked in the past, but it is no longer an acceptable answer to Mat-Su residents.
Some have tried to frame the drive for election integrity as something peculiar to the 2020 presidential election. It is not.
For me, the battle for election integrity began when I volunteered on a congressional campaign as a high school student in 1996. On Election Day, the race came down to 979 votes out of more than 95,000 votes cast. Unfortunately, there was a very active campaign to encourage non-citizens to vote in that race, which destroyed any confidence in the accuracy of the official vote total.
- In 2010, I served as a campaign manager for Joe Miller in his primary race against Lisa Murkowski. That experience was most enlightening.
- In 2020, I helped author an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in the case Texas v. Pennsylvania concerning the responsibility of the United States to guarantee a Republican Form of Government to every state in the union.
- In January 2021, I went to Washington DC to attend President Trump’s speech to the nation, and to convey to Alaska’s congressional representatives the critical importance of election integrity to my constituents and to thousands of other Alaskans who were unable to travel to Washington, D.C.
- In June 2021, I traveled to Arizona to observe the election audit of Maricopa County conducted by the Arizona State Legislature.
- In August 2021, I traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to meet with other state legislators at the Cyber Symposium and discuss the information we were seeing with respect to the 2020 election.
- In August 2022, I traveled to Springfield, Missouri to meet with other state legislators and discuss the many technical aspects of the 2020 election at the Moment of Truth Summit.
While legislators from a number of states participated in each of these events, I had the distinction in each case of the being the only legislator from Alaska. Alaska’s election integrity challenges and failings did not begin in 2020, nor will they end there.
I was proud to be part of the effort in October 2022 to return Mat-Su Borough elections to paper ballots, counted by hand. The necessity of earning public confidence in the integrity of our elections deserve no less than this, and a great deal more.
To join others in volunteering to hand count ballots at your local election precinct, please sign-up here.