A state elections official is calling on Sen. Mark Begich to correct statements he made about access to voting in Alaska.
Begich, in a speech to state lawmakers Monday, said he was concerned about recent trends in Alaska making voting more difficult, particularly for Alaska Native and other minority groups. He said the Parnell administration has fought against Native language ballots and is seeking exemption from federal review of state election law.
The director of the Division of Elections says she strongly disputes that the state has imposed any obstacles to voting.
In a letter to Begich, dated Wednesday, Gail Fenumiai said the state has a "robust" language assistance program mandated by a section of the Voting Rights Act that the state is not challenging.
Begich responded Thursday through his spokesperson, Heather Handyside, who said his statements on voting were accurate and “reflect the troubling experiences he’s been hearing from many rural Alaskans.”
“Alaska Natives have relied on the Voting Rights Act for nearly 40 years to protect themselves from barriers at the ballot box,” Handyside wrote. “It’s sadly ironic the Division of Elections rests its defense on that Act because this administration is in federal court today seeking to gut that very law.”