On Wednesday, December 14th, in the Baranof Gold room, Josephine Bahnke, Director, Division of Elections spoke on Alaska’s voting systems and processes. With help from Brian Jackson, Program Manager, they discussed the Division’s core mission: to “conduct fair, impartial and accurate elections…”

This year’s election cycle set a record for the number of absentee and early voters. Approximately 32% of the votes cast this year were absentee or early and the trend seems to be one that will continue. The presentation went over a background of the most important parts of securing an election system: defense in depth, fortification of systems, and confidence in outcomes. Defenses include multi-lated security, Department of Homeland Security “cyber hygiene scanning”, and intrusion detection processes. Our systems are certified to Federal Standards, up to date, and tamper proof. Finally, there is a state review board and hand count verifications across the state.

Some key aspects of Alaska’s system include a system that is centralized and standardized with a system of independent verification and audit of votes. Alaska has observers present, and paper back ups for all votes. The systems are not connected to the Internet.
The future of election systems in Alaska will require input from citizens, and legislators. The existing equipment was purchased in 1998, and the manufacturer is no longer making even replacement parts. So decisions need to be made. Should we purchase new equipment? The cost to replace would be close to $5 million. Should we look at vote by mail? Many states have moved to this. The Division will be working with the legislature this year to put together a task force on how to move forward.

There were a number of questions at the end, and a very engaged audience. A useful and relevant topic along with a great lunch and great desserts at the Baranof. Join us next time!