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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Alaska Election Challenges

 We Must do Better

(2021©donnliston.com)

 

J. Christian Adams of Public Interest Legal Foundation, and Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation spoke about 2020 Alaska Election irregularities at the Alaska Roundtable on October 26, 2021. They have a wealth of information about Alaska voting and have sued many states to require election accountability. They were brought to Alaska by the Alaska Policy Forum.


Alaska elections have sometimes been volatile. This writer experienced first-hand perhaps the most volatile election for governor in our history, in 1978, when my business was contracted to help Jay Hammond for Governor. The Primary Election included charges of election fraud.

 

In the end Alaskans came together and we got a The Permanent Fund in lieu of unlimited state government. How ironic that today our legislature is split between people who want more state government and those who think the longstanding statutory formula for distributing the Permanent Fund earnings to Alaskans should be honored.

 

Read Sheldon Air Service story here: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/08/what-would-don-and-roberta-sheldon-have.html

 


The 1978 Republican Primary Election determined who would be the Republican candidate in the General Election that year. That close win was referenced in a 2000 University of Alaska Fairbanks publication establishing the historical importance of voting.[1]




This publication in 2000 was an appeal to educated Alaskans,
many who had witnessed the election of 1978.


 Charges of primary election fraud were leveled by former Alaska Attorney General Edgar Paul Boyko, on August 22 in a letter to Col. Tom Anderson of the Alaska State Troopers. Boyko cited four incidents and “well over 50 reports of election irregularities not just in Anchorage but all over the state.” [2]

 

Lt. Governor Lowell Thomas, who was responsible for conducting the election, ordered a recount to begin September 13. Hickel reportedly trailed Hammond by 147 votes and Democrat Ed Merdes trailed Chancy Croft by 277 votes in the then open primary election.[3] Some 112,000 votes had been cast and both candidates asked for a recount.

 

At a September 9 Republican State Convention in Fairbanks, both Hickel and Hammond called for party unity, with Hickel predicting he would be the ultimate winner after the recount. He had led in the count from the start but lost his lead when challenged ballots were counted.

 

Challenged ballots determined the outcome.

 

Read Cozy Interiors Story Here: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/01/destiny-happens.html

 


On October 13 Presiding Superior Judge Ralph Moody threw out the primary election and ordered a new one be held. One week later, On October 20 the Alaska Supreme Court overruled Moody and ordered the general election be held November 7 as planned.

 

Members of that Supreme Court were justices Jay Andrew Rabinowitz (Selected by Gov. Egan), Roger Connor (Selected by Gov. Hickel), Robert Boochever (Selected by Gov. Egan), Edmond W. Burke (Selected by Gov. Hammond) and Warren Matthews (Selected by Gov. Hammond).


 

The final primary count saw the gap between Hickel/Hammond narrow to 96 votes, Hammond 31,894 to Hickel 31,798, of 108,057 cast. Former House Speaker Tom Fink also ran and gained 17,487 votes while a fourth Republican, Jimmie Drew Lockhart got only 451 votes. Democrat Chancy Croft, a former Alaska Senate President, won 8,911 votes to Merde’s 8,639 votes and Jalmar Kerttula’s 7125 votes.

 

Read Alaska Chalet BNB story here: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-best-thing-about-being-in-anchorage.html




Everybody jumped into the primary election and the person with the most votes won. Democrats split their small pie evenly.

 

The general election would be between Hammond and Croft. Hickel mounted a write-in campaign even after his Primary Election defeat. Terry Miller had won the Republican Lt. Gov. primary with 26,492 votes and Katherine Hurley won the Democrat Lt Gov primary with 11,015 votes. These numbers are easily found on the Division of Elections webpage.[4]

 

Hickel threw the first punch on October 29, with a Anchorage Times ad aimed at activating supporters, declaring: “Unless the Hickel/Miller write-in succeeds, Jay Hammond will be the next governor.” Using primary election numbers, this ad urged voters to not throw away their votes on anybody but Hickel.

 

That tactic failed.

 

Here is what did work

 

My Spenard business was recruited. It was understood that the Anchorage Times supported Hickel. It was further understood that any ad placed there would be seen immediately by the opposition forces for their simultaneous response. As the largest voice in the state, the Times was the field of battle. The continuing Hickel effort had to be countered by stealth.

 

A Hammond campaign plan required construction of full-page advertisements in my shop for delivery to the Times for placement in pre-paid pages at the last possible moment before publication. Those ads were constructed using my typesetter, photo screener and light tables. They were then taken across Spenard Road to Anchorage Printing Company to make a Master Photo Mechanical Transfer (PMT). This full-sized photo-ready print was rolled into a cardboard tube and delivered to the Anchorage Times Advertising Department. That Advertising Department manager, Vic Hussey told the Hammond campaign that our facts would be checked before publication was possible. Those tubes of Hammond campaign missiles passed by Hickel Campaign workers picking up stickers for write-in ballot placement--also produced at Anchorage Printing!

 

That became my job. I was briefed prior to each relay by a campaign operative, Bob Clark. I delivered each to the Times Advertising Department and stood my ground. No facts were found to be incorrect. Clark commented on one occasion that my business waiting room—located at the back of a laundromat—was like waiting at a bus stop.

 


Read about MatSu Food Bank here: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/07/feeding-alaskans-in-mat-su.html

This series of ads in the Anchorage Times in the final days of the election were devastating. But he final ad, published Nov. 7, election day, provided an overview of “The Campaign of 1978.” These were the words on that ad above the signature of Gov. Hammond:

 

You and I have endured together an extraordinary experience.

 

The Campaign of 1978, even with its most divisive moments, is a common bond we share. In the years to come, others will hear and read about it.  For those of us who have lived through it, citizen and servant alike, the drama finally comes to a close.

 

There have been many differences among the candidacies of Jay Kerttula, Ed Merdes, Chancy Croft, Jimmie Drew Lockhart, Tom Fink, Wally Hickel, Don Wright, Tom Kelly and myself.  For all those differences, we too, have had something in common. Each of us has believed his ideas for governing Alaska are the best for the state. And we have taken our collective case to you, the Alaskan people, to decide.

 

Whomever you chose, I hope the divisiveness among us will come to an end as well.

 

For it does us no good, either as a State or as a people, to stand divided any longer.  There is too much at stake. There is too much to gain or lose.  There is no other land like Alaska.  And we can hardly predict, let alone perceive fully, what all the future holds except that it is rich with opportunity and challenge alike. Divided, our potentials are in jeopardy; together, we have the advantage.

 

More important than who is Governor for the next four years, is that the Alaskan people heal the wounds of this past year.  I pledge myself to this goal, and I ask your vote for that privilege.

 

To you who have endured the experience on the Campaign of 1978, and on behalf of those who have worked so hard for their individual candidates, I wish to express my congratulations and appreciation.

 

Hammond was re-elected with 49,580 votes. Hickel got 33,555 in his write-in bid. Croft got 25,656 votes. Alaskans who had previously voted to move the state capital from Juneau to Willow denied a bond proposition for $966 to move it.

 

Nearly $1 billion to get the Alaska Capital out of the grip of Seattle seemed too expensive for Alaskans then. We had no understanding of how much we would pay for decades to have state policy decisions made by politicians who say anything it takes to get elected—then join coalitions to change positions overnight once they arrive in Juneau—almost every year.

 

Nobody questioned how Lt Gov Thomas ran that state election. No data breaches with new machines to facilitate the already simple process were alleged to be a potential source of fraud. Once it was over, in 1978, we all sighed relief.

 

But the election of 2020 still burns

 

The Alaska Roundtable meets at the Ray Kreig Conference Room, Boardwalk Office Suites, 201 Barrow St, Suite 102A. Ric Davidge, MPA/PM is shown furthest right in photo, conducting this meeting including zoom participants. He is Chairman, Founder, and Referee of the organization.

 


Some Alaskans were concerned about voting machines before the 2020 election and took steps to tell their concerns to Gov. Michael Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyers.

 






 

Selective hand counts occurred.

 

We fought for a year against buying these machines, said Holly Sheldon. The state bought them before the election for $4 million. They arrived in August. 

Sheldon has documented: The State of Alaska ordered three hundred and six Dominion Part# 181-000028 ICPT 321C voting machines and four hundred and forty Dominion Part # 190-000056 Image Cast X Prime, Vendor/Mft Part# HID-21V-BTX-BIR voting machines, and launched them into service despite public skepticism, warnings, and three certified legal notices to Alaska's Lt. Governor and Governor, with a demand not to use the Dominion voting machines due to evidence of voting machine vulnerability. This information is part of a resolution which Sheldon has prepared and is circulating to others who share her concerns. It is posted in its entirety in the References.[4]

Lt Gov. Meyer was condescending in his response.

 


Over the past year Sen. Mike Shower has also attempted to get information from the Alaska Division of Elections and he reports also being stiff-armed. Shower has been turning up the heat at public events, including the one with several legislators in attendance held at the Alaska Roundtable on October 25th.

Sen. Ron Gilliam, Hans von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams, Sen. Shelley Hughes, Sen. Michael Shower, Rep. James Kaufman, Rep. Cathy Tilton, Rep. Sarah Vance, Sen. Roger Holland, kneeling.

 


The public’s lack of confidence in how our elections are being conducted with machines that can be hooked to the internet, continues to be a concern. Many other states are facing election integrity challenges and policy groups like The Alaska Roundtable have arrived at some expectations before the next general election.

 



 

This writer stated concerns about what happened in the last election in a previous blog posting:

 

I don’t trust this way of voting. It isn’t enough that we all register online for everything and the data becomes voluminous as it is interfaced with everything else we have ever filled out online in the World Wide Web. I was amazed at the amount of Outside money poured into wack-job candidates for U.S. Senate and Congress in 2020. Adding to my skepticism, after that election, I was notified by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer that I was one of some 119,000 Alaskans who had been “hacked,” and my personal information may be compromised! VOTER INFORMATION. How can this be? Isn’t protecting the integrity of our elections the primary job of our Lt. Governor--besides protecting the state seal?

 

Now I’m worried about the state seal. [5]

 

But there is another result of the 2020 elections we know will impact HOW Alaskans vote in very tangible ways: Proposition 2 won by 3,781 votes out of 344,283 cast. [6]

 

Until the votes were counted this Outside-inspired initiative was too close to call. The education campaign was pure propaganda, appealing to people’s worst feelings about politicians. It suggested if we had more opportunities to vote we would pick better elected officials.

 

But worse than that, hand-counts of ranked choice voting may be impossible.

 

Before the 2020 election we were provided information about candidates, and given the choice among those candidates, first in the primary. Then, from the candidates who won in the primary we were given the opportunity to choose candidates to go to Juneau and represent us in deliberations there. Ranked Choice Voting does nothing to improve the quality of candidates available for voters to select from.

 

We deserve the people we elect. We don’t need a re-structuring of elections. Under the traditional election system we each saw the product of our choices directly, under the principle of “one man one vote.”[7] If we didn’t like an elected official we simply mounted a campaign to remove them in the next election.

 

The Division of Elections provides the following explanation of how the new election scheme will work:

 


Alaska is a great place with great people. Some were born here, some came here from other places, but we mostly share our love of independence and liberty. Our elected officials are accessible, and our institutions must be constrained and transparent. Currently the top executives refuse to consider serious concerns brought forth by serious Alaskans. We must have confidence in the basic relationship between Alaskans and elected officials as it occurs in the election process.

 

Furthermore, honest elections should bring honorable Alaskans together for the good of our wonderful state.

 

References:

[1]University of Alaska booklet to promote lobbying efforts




[2] Anchorage Times story, August 1978.

 

[3] Definition of open primary: a primary in which the voter is not required to indicate party affiliation

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/open%20primaries

 

[4]

 










[5]Are Honest Alaskans Being Played for Fools?

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/03/alaska-election-questions.html

 

[6] Alaska Division of Elections Information

https://www.elections.alaska.gov/results/20GENR/data/sovc/ElectionSummaryReportRPT24.pdf

  

[7] One Man One Vote Rule

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/one-person_one-vote_rule

Definition

The One-Person One-Vote Rule refers to the rule that one person’s voting power ought to be roughly equivalent to another person’s within the same state.



Another previous story on Alaska Election Concerns:

Fighting for Alaska Election Integrity

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/05/alaskans-have-much-to-lose.html



Did you like this story? If so, please copy the link below and send by email or post to social media.

 https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/10/alaska-election-challenges.html

 Advertising is available on this blog. I will write  your story and design a display advertisement with link to that story for continuous monthly reminders to customers or supporters. 

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Certificate of Need Scam

 The Challenge of Alaska’s Healthcare Crisis

(2021©donnliston.com)

 


As the First Regular Session of the Alaska Legislature stumbles through its Fourth Special Session with very little to show for all the per diem racked up by elected officials cavorting in Juneau, perhaps now is a good time to look closer at a crisis being amplified by Covid hysteria amid outright legislative dithering.

 

When will our elected officials deal with Alaska’s Healthcare Crisis?

 

As in Alaska public education, the Covid-19 Pandemic has turned on the morning light to practices contrary to the interests of most reasonable Alaskans. We are awake now and must become more informed about how this impacts every one of us.

 

I didn’t submit more than four bills of my own this session because nothing was likely to happen, explained Sen. David Wilson, whom I interviewed about his expertise in public health care administration for this story. Wilson was a co-sponsor on several other bills, but his healthcare bill, SB 26 Repeal of Certificate of Need Program[1] was offered as SB 1 last session.

 


 

Sen. Shelley Hughes has also offered SB 41 Health Insurance Info.; Incentive Program, which would promote free-market economic principles by providing Alaskans with the information needed to make healthcare decisions--with incentives to save money.[2] Gov. Dunleavy has also proposed a bill to make health payment information available for decisionmakers, SB 93 An Act relating to the establishment of an all-payer health claims database.[3]

 

None of these critical bills have gotten any traction.

 

While action on our healthcare crisis is necessary to bend the healthcare cost curve down, we consumers cannot expect much to happen in a system controlled by monopolies.

 

I have been told by folks who tried to get rid of Certificate of Need (CON) in other states that we are facing many millions of dollars from opposition lobbying groups, continued Wilson. We have one hospital in Alaska that pays about $20 million per year just to fight other organization’s efforts to establish Certificates of Need. They have a monopoly and fight reform of the system.

 

Read Cozy Interiors Story Here: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/01/destiny-happens.html

 


CON as a Barrier to Competition

 

CON programs were originally intended to restrain healthcare costs and improve access to care for the poor and underserved populations. CON laws regulate and limit entry and supply of medical services and facilities, which has resulted in fewer incentives for providers to improve quality and outcomes.

 

Four decades of data and studies show CON laws have not controlled costs, improved quality and outcomes, or increased access to healthcare for the poor or underserved. CON laws have established healthcare monopolies, which has resulted in barriers to new or expanded medical facilities and limited healthcare choices for consumers.

 

The great state of Alaska should be making strides to lower costs and create more accessible care for patients, and this starts with repealing antiquated CON laws, according to testimony to the legislature by The Heartland Institute. Supporters of CON typically argue these laws lower health care costs by preventing overinvestment in a certain area, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. [4]

 

There is inherent cronyism embedded deep into the roots of CON laws. Established industry leaders are protected from competition by limiting entry into the marketplace, which in turn hurts consumers, resulting in fewer health care choices at higher costs. If Alaska repelled CON laws, the state would have at least 10 additional health care facilities, three additional ambulatory surgical centers, and seven rural hospitals, according to a George Mason University Mercatus profile on Alaska’s CON laws.[5]

 


 

The odds are against us as healthcare consumers

 

According to Wilson: Before the pandemic we had some 740,000 people who live in Alaska, of which 210,000 work. Those who work are going to be paying for health care for the rest. We have to get a system of healthcare in Alaska that we can afford.

 

Ideally CON provides essential requirements for a new medical facility, but there are exemptions. Alaska Native entities don’t have to apply for a CON under the law. Native health organizations can set up their own ambulatory surgery centers, for instance, without having to go through this process. This is simply an exclusion afforded them. But once established these non-profit organizations don’t have to only see Native patients, they can see anybody in those facilities.

 

Read Alaska Chalet BNB story here: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-best-thing-about-being-in-anchorage.html

 


Southeast Alaska is an example, with Southeast Alaska Regional Health Center (SEARHC), explained Wilson. They have taken over a lot of health facilities and are expanding at a rapid rate. It is good for that area, but they don’t have to go through a process to determine if new facilities are needed or not. Alaska Native Medical Center can do it through nursing homes and ambulatory care settings, without going through any kind of process for Certificate of Need. The other traditional option is to establish a surgery center,and  requires expenditures for the new facility be below a trigger amount—$1.5 million. That amount will provide a one- or two-bed operation with one doctor and a nurse. In this scenario, when something goes bad it is going to go bad fast—with that level of medical staff—so quality of care can go down in some of these places where they try to set up a small clinic like that. Some doctor-owned facilities are also helping provide facilities without the CON requirement.

 

Photo by Waneta Liston

Example?

 

Most of rural Alaska is served by regional health corporations, continued Wilson. So, they are protected, but there is a clinic at Delta Junction that wants to expand because it is too far to drive to Valdez, and too far to go to Fairbanks. They have a small clinic that is not meeting community needs today and they are trying to expand. To do that will put them over the $1.5 million cap. That would be nothing more than a new MRI machine or ultrasound equipment or x-ray equipment, to put them over the cap.

 

Wilson continued: On the other hand Tok is building a new facility, which is not as far away as Valdez or Fairbanks, but it will be a Native clinic. The people in Delta have been trying to get a CON for a very long time and have not been able to get it to meet community needs because when you have other entities fighting against your application it becomes costly and prolonged.

 


 

That is why Wilson proposed his bill.

 

To change the system is very difficult to do because people see it as being uncaring for the providers, or the patients, explained Wilson. We can have banker boxes of information showing how the process can be improved but one antidotal story about someone’s bad experience and it all falls apart. It may be an outlier but if a legislator is influenced it can create a barrier.

 

Read Sheldon Air Service story here: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/08/what-would-don-and-roberta-sheldon-have.html


An Overview of the Problem

 

An Alaska Policy Forum report, Controlling Health Care Costs in Alaska describes the problem this way:

 

In the years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law, most Alaskans have found their health care costs going not down, but up. By some measures, in fact, Alaska has the most expensive health care in the country. There have been many studies and theories posited over the years about why this is so. And yet the high costs continue with no significant reforms to address this far-reaching state problem.

 

Health care costs affect so much that matters. These costs influence the actual health of people, as individuals forgo essential and preventative care simply because they cannot afford it. These costs shape our labor market, as employers try to balance providing quality coverage to attract superior employees with rapidly increasing health care costs. These costs affect our state economy, as the health care industry provides much-needed and high-paying jobs. And of particular interest to policymakers, health care costs make up significant portions of our government budgets: the State of Alaska pays out hundreds of millions of dollars each year for Medicaid claims, and hundreds more for state employee health care coverage. [4]

 

Read MatSu Food Bank story here: 

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/07/feeding-alaskans-in-mat-su.html


Alaska healthcare costs have not always been unusually high. Through the 1990s our costs were like many other states, but the expenditure growth in Alaska has far outpaced the rest of the country. This APF Report documents the factors for this phenomenon as: 1) Labor costs--as the primary driver of total expenditures--are 50-80 percent higher than the national average; 2) Alaska Medicaid expenditures are 56 percent higher than the national average, with Medicad payments to physicians higher than Medicare payments, contrary to virtually anyplace else in the United States; 3) Prescription drug spending at the state level is substantially below the national average; 4) An unusually large portion of our very high commercial health costs are paid by employers, meaning individual Alaskans don’t have any incentive to strive for cost efficiencies.

 

Wilson continued: The powerful players want to keep their profitability levels as they are. One way they do that is with the onerous CON requirement.

 

But wait, there’s more! Fifty percent of Alaskans born today are on Medicaid!

 

The Alaska Healthcare Crisis was exacerbated by former Gov. Bill Walker, who in introduced HB 148 providing for Medicaid Expansion under the ACA. [7]

 


 

This is one of 12 fiscal notes for this bill expanding federal Medicaid funds for Alaska with expectations we would absorb the new expenses over time. All are listed here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Detail/32?Root=hb%20148#tab2_4


Medicaid expansion more than doubled—actually 2/3rds increase—in the number of people who qualify for state services, Wilson continued. We didn’t have the capacity and we didn’t know what that would do to our state budget at that time. It all sounded wonderful that the federal government was going to pay for the increase initially at 100 percent, then dropping down incrementally to offer more benefits, but in reality It has created a huge influx of additional people requiring government funding.

 

Alaska doesn’t have many options available from the Federal Government now to mitigate the state’s accelerating costs for Medicaid. Our elected officials would have to demonstrate courage to deal with this crisis,

 

References:

 

[1]Senate Bill 26 bill and sponsor statement

http://www.akleg.gov/PDF/32/Bills/SB0026A.PDF

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_documents.asp?session=32&docid=12927

 

[2]Senate Bill 43 Health Insurance Info.; Incentive Program sponsor statement

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_documents.asp?session=32&docid=13830

 

[3]Senate Bill 93 Health Claims Database Bill and Sponsor statement

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Detail/32?Root=sb93#tab5_4

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_documents.asp?session=32&docid=12495

 

[4] Controlling Health Care Costs in Alaska, Benedic Ippolito, Ph.D., Alaska Policy Forum, June 30, 2020

http://alaskapolicyforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2020-06-30-APF-Health-Care-Costs-in-AK.pdf

 

[5]Heartland Institute Testimony before the Committee on Health and Social Services, Christina Herrin, March 23, 2021

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_documents.asp?session=32&docid=12960

 

[6] George Mason University Mercatus Center Report

https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/alaska_state_profile.pdf

 

[7]HB 148 Medicaid Expansion, Gov. Bill Walker, 29th Legislature, 03/18/15

http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Detail/29?Root=hb%20148#tab1_4

Transmittal Letter, Gov. Bill Walker

 

Previous story on Alaska’s Healthcare Crisis:

The Threat of Competence

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/09/the-threat-of-competence.html


 _____

Did you like this story? If so, please copy the link below and send by email or post to social media.

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