Domino's Pizza Tracker, but for voting

To be honest, if a Dominos’ vote tracker is all that it’d take for Republicans to finally accept reality, then great! I guess it’s easier than expecting their leaders to start telling the truth.

Happy Friday, Alaska! We’ve made it through another week.

In this edition: Initial takeaways from the new election bill, the latest on the Anchorage elections, the reading list and another Friday video. Oh, and the Friday in the Sun is already out here! Have an excellent weekend, everyone.

New election bill

Sen. Mike “Dozer” Shower, R-Wasilla, rolled out a near-complete rewrite of his “everyone has lost trust in elections so let’s make ‘em a heckuva lot more complicated and also have you heard of blockchain?” bill, Senate Bill 39, on Thursday. While it ditches some of the most egregious changes from the initial version (a common tactic with these kinds of bills) like the blanket ban on local by-mail elections and taking the automatic out of the automatic voter registration, it adds a lot more that ought to create some concern.

At its core, Shower’s legislation seems to be primarily concerned with creating a Domino’s Pizza Tracker-style system for ballots (which also includes an opportunity for ballot curing, which is legitimately good). Everyone’s confidence in the elections would be restored, he claims, if we could just track our ballots with the same kind of system that we use to track our pizza orders to make sure to put our barky dogs in the backyard in time. Never mind that much of the lost faith is directly a result of a reality-adverse political party that has been happy to proliferate the Big Lie to set the stage to make sure that the legitimate results of the 2020 election don’t happen again.

Shower’s legislation doesn’t contain the overtly headline-grabbing anti-voting measures that other states have used (well, there is a provision requiring four hours of police training on identifying election fraud, which is definitely not problematic). Instead, it seems like he’s really bought-in on an esoteric digital solution arguing that if we can just track the location of every ballot at all times, if voter rolls are more regularly scrubbed, if we assign every voter a “digital multi-factor authentication security identifier,” if we require multi-factor authentication to vote and if we log each individual vote on a publicly maintained database known as a blockchain then we can all finally, at long last accept the election results. To be honest, if a Dominos’ vote tracker is all that it’d take for Republicans to finally accept reality, then great! I guess it’s easier than expecting their leaders to start telling the truth about the election.

But the reality is that this just ain’t it. With database breaches and escalating cybersecurity threats, is a digital-driven system that includes a “well, have you heard of bitcoin?” to explain it really going to instill broad confidence that our elections are fair and free of interference? At the Thursday hearing, Shower pitched this system of multi-factor authentication, unique digital identifiers and a blockchain voting database as the perfect, impenetrable system used by the world’s snazziest tech companies. Anyone in tech will tell you otherwise. Nothing is truly free from attack, especially when people are involved. Instead, what I see when I read through all the provisions calling for digital identifying codes to be attached to ballots and public databases—with your identity hidden behind that “digital multi-factor authentication security identifier”—is a step towards the end of secret balloting. What happens if someone drops the keys? 

And what about the equity of voting? How does this multi-factor authentication work for those without access to cellphones, for those who don’t know how to use their cellphones all that well or for those who don’t have great internet access?

Oh, and the legislation contains provisions that could invalidate an election in the event of data breaches or if the convoluted ballot accounting process doesn’t follow the letter of the convoluted law. And while the measure no longer bars local by-mail elections, it would require local governments to abide by the same convoluted system pieced together in this bill.  

As Shower conceded, this latest rewrite is just the first step of the process. Maybe there’s a way to thread the needle on security and accessibility here that can satisfy the very real concerns about voting access with the more made-up concerns about rampant election fraud. We can only hope. 

The view from Anchorage

Speaking of local elections, Anchorage has one going on. With a dwindling number of ballots left to be counted, extreme-right conservative Dave “Small $5,000 Mistakes” Bronson has extended his lead over progressive Assemblymember Forrest Dunbar to about two percentage points. It’s a symbolic victory as both will be heading to the May 11 run-off in what will largely be a battle of turnout and wooing the 36% of voters who didn’t vote for either of these guys in the first go around. 

On the other races, Anchorage Assembly Chairman Felix Rivera is handily beating the attempted recall effort and progressive school board candidates are holding onto the lead in all four races with wide to extraordinarily close margins. Perhaps a bit prematurely, Pat Higgins today claimed victory in the race for School Board Seat E with a 395-vote lead over Sami Graham (a 0.6% lead). He also gave a nod in his announcement to other progressive candidates Dora Wilson and Carl Jacobs (who are on the wide end of the margins) as well as Kelly Lessens, who’s on the extraordinarily close end of things. As it currently stands, Lessens is up by 252 votes or a 0.39% margin, which is within the margin of an automatic recount. 

The next big nexus is the public canvassing process scheduled for tonight at 5 p.m., where challenged and rejected ballots will be reviewed to either be accepted or rejected. The election results are set to be certified on April 20. 

Reading list

  • There’s been a lot said and a lot more to be said about police killing people, but this column on the killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo from the normally very-silly Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke is worth a read. “This isn’t a ‘both sides’ issue, and we disgrace Adam’s soul and do profound damage to our own if we treat it as such. There is only one side here, and it’s a side that should be almost instinctual in all of us as human beings, a thread woven into our DNA: What we saw in that police body camera video is wholly, wildly, unnaturally unacceptable.” From the Chicago Tribune: Column: A cop killed Adam Toledo. There aren’t two sides to this story. It’s simply unacceptable.

  • In far, far lighter news, here’s a story about an Anchorage piñata maker who came up with a novel idea after a rough year. From Alaska Public Media: This Anchorage piñata maker is crafting giant COVID germs for smashing

  • On the covid front, Gov. Mike Dunleavy finally made official plans to start offering the vaccine free to travelers on June 1 as part of an effort to salvage the tourism season this summer. From Alaska Public Media: Alaska to offer vaccines to visitors as part of plan to boost tourism

  • 30,000 people. That’s the rough difference between the amount of sewage what managers of the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant would expect and what they’re seeing. Gross! More from KTOO:

And one last thing

It’s former Gov. Bill Walker’s birthday today, so here’s a very silly video about that ol’ dirge that is “Happy Birthday” from Charles Cornell, a very entertaining jazz pianist who breaks down why some songs sound so niceand why some don’t.

Have a nice weekend, y’all!