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Assembly considers discontinuing by-mail election brochures

A brochure distributed by the clerk's office from October's municipal election.
Riley Board
A brochure distributed by the clerk's office from October's municipal election.

When election season rolls around, everyone with a mailbox in the Kenai Peninsula Borough receives a thorough brochure with information about candidates, voting locations and district maps.

But those brochures are hefty — the one for October’s municipal election totaled 93 pages, for example. And some assembly members say the cost and lack of public interest means it’s time to stop mailing them.

An ordinance to get rid of the by-mail brochures, authored by Assembly President Brent Johnson and Vice President Tyson Cox, would amend a current rule that requires the borough clerk to mail a packet of “strictly factual” voting information to every borough mailbox.

In a memo, they note that abandoned brochures at local post offices show there’s not a lot of interest from the public in the material. The memo also explains that printing the brochures costs the borough $30,000 each regular election.

However, during public testimony, several voters spoke in support of the brochures, and encouraged the assembly to keep mailing them.

“I find the election brochure to be so helpful in me understanding who the candidates are, in the borough and in the cities,” Donna Aderhold testified.

Aderhold is a city council member in Homer. She said she’s concerned about how not sending the brochures could impact voter turnout in a borough with already-low turnout rates.

“I worry that voter participation may go down, and voter understanding of the candidates and issues may go down,” she said. “Because people are busy, they aren’t seeking out that information.”

The ordinance says in lieu of the brochure, the clerk’s office will mail everyone a postcard explaining how to access the same material online.

The physical packets would also be available in the borough clerk’s office and each city clerk’s office. But Aderhold said that wouldn’t make a difference for voters in the peninsula’s remote and unincorporated communities, where those offices don’t exist.

The proposed ordinance would also get rid of the rule that any member of the public can submit a statement for or against any ballot proposition. The ordinance argues those statements are difficult to regulate and there is cause for concern about the use of public funds to advocate personal positions.

The assembly will make a final decision about the pamphlets at its meeting of 2023 on Jan. 3.

Correction: The ordinance would discontinue the election mailers, not the brochures entirely. The article has been corrected.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.