It's always important to vote and get your voice heard, but today's election has a couple of races that are very close, making every vote potentially the one that could decide whether Democrats stay in the majority in the U.S. Senate, and whether Alaska will have a new Governor in January.
At the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention held Oct. 23-25, Native leader Willie Hensley reminded the audience of ancestors who fought for their right vote in the 1920s, mentioning the Southeast Alaska grassroots association the Alaska Native Brotherhood, and Tlingit Indian attorney William Paul, Sr., among others.
"The fact they got involved is why our lives have been better." Hensley says, "Without politics, we couldn't have had electricity. We couldn't have got better housing. We couldn't have brought our kids back home from scattered places around the country. We couldn't get water, safe water. Our lives are much better because people got involved."
Other speakers told the audience the presidents of for-profit Native corporations, AFN, and the "Get Out the Native Vote" organization worked to establish 128 new polling places in rural Alaska.
A week later, AFN President Julie Kitka said AFN is planning to continue those efforts into the future, lobbying for federal and state legislation, and recommending formation of a bipartisan state commission.
"We want this election committee to take a look at and modernize and update our elections process," says Kitka. "There's many changes, with the technology of cell phones, and use of Internet and Internet voting, and other things. We can just take a fresh look at the elections process in the state. We urge this bipartisan commission to be created after this election to develop recommendations to the governor and the Alaska state legislation both regulatory changes as well as state statutes."
Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will remain open until 8 p.m.
Federal Subsistence Board recommends modifications to rural determination process
As KTOO's Jennifer Canfield reports, the Federal Subsistence Board's rural determination process will change, according to an announcement made at the AFN Convention.
The changes would mean a more favorable process for villages and other rural communities that rely on hunting and fishing. Deputy Under-Secretary of the Interior Michael Connors told AFN attendees the Department will be working with the state of Alaska on changing the process by which a community is determined to be rural, a status that gives residents preference for subsistence purposes on public lands.
The Village of Saxman, which is predominantly Alaska Native, was determined on the basis of its proximity to the more urban community of Ketchikan to be non-rural, a status it is fighting. The board has recommended changes that will use more flexible criteria that could lead to the kind of determinations sought by AFN, Saxman, and other similar communities. With a cut-off date for legal remedies looming, villages had filed suit over the issue. Their attorney says the lawsuit will not be dropped until they've had a chance to review the proposed changes and to determine they're satisfactory.