Alaska Supreme Court Rules Absentee Ballots Don’t Need Witness Signatures, Upholds Lower Court Ruling

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The Alaska Supreme Court reportedly upheld a lower court’s ruling Monday that voters do not need to have a witness sign their mail-in ballots.

The Arctic Village Council and others sued to block the requirement due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to KTOO. Natalie Landreth of the Native American Rights Fund argued Arctic Village residents live far from a hospital and are at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus if they’re forced to break social distancing and meet with a witness, per the same report.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby ruled the witness signature requirement during the pandemic “impermissibly burdens the right to vote,” but the decision was appealed and then went to the Supreme Court, according to the Associated Press (AP).

State law required absentee voters to get a signature from a witness who is at least 18 years old in order to verify the voter’s identify and eligibility, according to the Anchorage Daily News. (RELATED: Supreme Court Reinstates South Carolina Ballot Witness Requirement, Says It’s Up To State To Make Election Law Changes)

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, called the ruling a “win” in a tweet Monday.

“BREAKING: Win for voters in Alaska! The state’s Supreme Court affirmed a preliminary injunction ELIMINATING the unconstitutional ballot witness requirement for voters. We’ll keep fighting coast to coast to protect voters from being disenfranchised amid the pandemic.”

More than 111,000 Alaskan voters have requested absentee ballots, and more than 10,000 have already been returned, according to statistics published by the Division of Elections.