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9/26/14 Magnitude 6.1 quake rattles southcentral, but no major damage or injuries

A 6.1 magnitude quake hit Alaska at 9:51 a.m. Thursday. The Alaska Earthquake Center says the epicenter was about 80 miles northwest of Anchorage.

New poll shows Republican candidate Dan Sullivan in the lead over Mark Begich

APRN's Liz Ruskin reports a new Dittman Research poll shows Republican Dan Sullivan is six points ahead of Democrat Mark Begich in the U.S. Senate race. The research was funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It ran a pro-Sullivan ad in April and today officially announced its endorsement of Sullivan.

The poll shows Sullivan at 49 percent, and Begich at 43 percent. The phone survey of 800 voters was conducted last week. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The U.S. Chamber, in a written statement, pledged to put its “full weight” behind Sullivan. It has already spent more than $23 million to promote Republican congressional candidates around the country. That puts it in second place among groups making independent expenditures to influence the outcome of federal elections this year.

In response to the announcement, Begich campaign spokesman Max Croes said the Koch Brothers and Sullivan’s parents are spending millions to buy the Alaska Senate seat. The Kochs are wealthy industrialists who, according to news reports, have given the U.S. Chamber at least $2 million. Sullivan’s parents and his brother have contributed at least $680,000 to groups running ads to promote Sullivan’s candidacy. Sullivan’s brother also sits on the board of the U.S. Chamber.


New site allows voter registration by cell phone

APRN's Alexandra Gutierrez reports Alaskans 18 to 24 are the age group least likely to vote. About a third of them aren’t registered – and of those who are, fewer than half actually come out on Election Day. But a college freshman from Juneau would like to change that by making the whole process a little more convenient for those in school with a new voter registration site for cell phone users.

Stephen Mell is in his first weeks at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. His list of priorities is pretty typical for a freshman.

"Number one is definitely Spanish class, says Mell. "Next one, I dunno, is probably getting enough sleep, which I never seem to manage, and then the rest of my classes. And somewhere over there is the rest of the world, but it’s pretty small.”

Even though what’s going on in the rest of the world -- and back in Alaska – isn’t a top concern in his daily life, Mell still cares enough to vote. To do that, he’s got a few options. He could fly back …

”Uh, no. That would be very expensive," says Mell, laughing.

He could scan his vote and e-mail it to the Division of Elections, or submit an absentee ballot via fax machine …

”I might be able to figure it out, but it would be stressful,” said Mell.

Or he can request an absentee ballot by mail.

“I don’t have any envelopes except the ones my mom mailed to me with my grandmother’s address on them so I can send letters to her.”

That whole process feels like a chore to Mell, and like something that could end up discouraging students away at college from voting. Mell thinks more students would vote if they could just register or request absentee ballots from their cell phones. So, he built a mobile website that will let
them to do exactly that.

"The entire idea was to make it as easy as possible.”

And it is. Testing out the site from a smart phone, registering to vote takes about five minutes. You go to “vote dash ak dot U – S,” fill out your vitals, swipe your signature on the screen, and that’s pretty much it. With the push of a button, your form gets submitted to the state for processing.

“It’s not officially endorsed by the Division of Elections," said Mell. "But it’s been working, and they haven’t had any problems with it so far.”

“Vote – dash – AK – dot – US” isn’t fancy. Mell says developing it took about 20 hours. He chose to build a mobile site instead of an app partially because it was easier for him to program. Plus, a slick design and bells and whistles might actually make it less user friendly and require people to spend more time registering.

Mell also acknowledges that some people might be a little wary about using it, but says the information they submit doesn’t get saved on any server.

“I see the name of the person who registered, but I do not get their Social Security number," said Mell. "That is discarded immediately. It is never stored to a hard drive.”

Mell says he gets an alert every time someone signs up. So far, only ten people – mostly his friends -- have used the site to register. But he’s hoping the idea will take off, and that more people will use it once they learn about it.

”Maybe someday I won’t be able to put up with having that many notifications.”

The final day to register to vote is October 5.