Arctic Village Council v. Meyer

Location: Alaska
Court Type: Alaska Supreme Court
Status: Closed (Judgment)
Last Update: October 13, 2020

What's at Stake

The lawsuit, Arctic Village Council v. Meyer, sought to waive a provision of state law for the November general election that requires voters who submit a mail-in absentee ballot to have a witness sign their ballot return envelope even in the midst of a highly contagious and deadly pandemic.

Alaska requires that eligible voters who wish to cast an absentee ballot by mail sign their ballots in the presence of a witness, who must also sign the ballot. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this requirement posed a particular threat to people who are immunocompromised who entered self-isolation as the pandemic spread across the nation. More generally, it burdened those who live alone or with people under the age of 18, who would have to potentially expose themselves to the virus to track down an eligible witness to cast their ballot.

As part of the adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic, on September 8, 2020, the ACLU brought suit in Alaska state court to challenge this requirement as applied to the November 2020 general election. In the litigation, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represented plaintiff Tribe Arctic Village; the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alaska, and Lawyers’ Committee represented individual voters as well as the League of Women Voters of Alaska. The lawsuit alleged that enforcing the witness requirement in the pandemic imposed significant burdens on the Alaska constitution’s guarantee of the right to vote.

On October 5, 2020, the court granted a preliminary injunction, finding that the witness requirement for absentee ballots is unconstitutional during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the state was quick to appeal the decision, the Alaska Supreme Court quickly affirmed that Alaskans would not need a witness to sign their absentee ballots, upholding the lower court ruling on October 13, 2020.

Support our on-going litigation and work in the courts Donate now

Learn More About the Issues in This Case