Treadwell to AFN: Youth and Native Votes Trending Upward
October 24, 2014, Anchorage, AK – Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell told delegates at the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention yesterday to keep working to increase voter participation, a priority Treadwell promised to maintain until his term ends on Dec. 1.
Treadwell released statistics showing that voter access, as well as participation among youth and Native Alaskans, had increased significantly in the last four years.
“In the 2012 primary election, less than 10% of 18-24 year olds cast a ballot, but in 2014, 20% of voters from the same age group participated,” Treadwell said. “In Alaska’s Northern and Western legislative districts, where over 60 percent of voters are Alaska Natives, voter turnout increased nearly seven percent between 2010 and 2014. That’s a great improvement and a positive trend.
“I’m most proud that the Division of Elections has more than doubled the number of early voting locations since 2012, by establishing 128 polling places in time for the 2014 election cycle. This year’s ballots will be the most widely available in state history. That’s due to the collaboration of the division with AFN and Native corporation CEO’s.”
Treadwell said the Division of Elections is complying with a federal court order to expand language assistance provided to voters, and said the word is getting out in many ways, including regular announcements on VHF Citizens Band radios, which are heard in homes throughout rural Alaska. He told delegates that anyone needing language assistance to vote in this election could call the division’s hotline at (866) 954-8683.
“On Nov. 4, we have an election with three major ballot measures, races that could determine control of the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and statewide offices,” Treadwell said. Citing the convention’s “Rise as One” theme, he said, “We have to rise as one to make sure everyone eligible to vote exercises their right to do so.”
Treadwell also chairs the Alaska Historical Commission, and cheered yesterday’s signing of House Bill 216, which makes 20 Native languages official languages of the State of Alaska. He urged delegates to work with him and his successor to put more traditional Native place names on official maps of the state. Individuals wishing to nominate a place name for consideration by the Commission can use forms provided at http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/oha/designations/guidelines411revisionsb.pdf.
“The best way to preserve a language is to come up with ways to use it every day,” Treadwell said. “When a traditional name like Dena’ina or Denali becomes the accepted word for a place, we help preserve the language.”