A group that has been looking at how to improve both the voting process and voter turnout on the Kenai has finished its work.
The election stakeholders group was created by the borough assembly in January, and since then, it focused its work on two main issues; compliance with both the American with Disabilities Act and the Human Rights Commission. Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander was a member of the group, and explained its guiding principles for the assembly this week.
“The first (principle) was to maximize accessibility and inclusivity. This was to ensure compliance not only with the ADA, but also to make sure that folks have access to vote if they want to vote. The second guiding principle was efficiency and conservation of public resources. This was really just being mindful that any recommendations that we brought forward to the assembly we’d consider that everything is being paid for with the taxpayer dollar and trying to make as efficient a use of that dollar as we could.”
The group also focused on voter confidence and satisfaction, as well as making sure its recommendations will hold up over the long term. With those and other points in mind, the group came up with six recommendations to not just meet the letter of the law, but also improve voter turnout, which typically hovers in the low to mid 20 percent range. The main change the group favored is a switch to a hybrid voting system.
“It’s one that we’ve actually used here in several of our precincts for a number of years. This would allow folks that wanted to, they could continue to vote as they have historically but it would also allow them to vote by mail. So it’s a hybrid of the two, and again, it is consistent with every guiding principle the election stakeholder group came up with.”
A total of six recommendations were made and also include things like adopting a ranked choice voting system and providing more information to voters about candidates and different ballot initiatives. Another recommendation that’s been talked about before would actually take some names off the ballot for service area board elections.
“As I’m sure most of you are aware, many times when we have elections the service area board (seats) are uncontested. I believe over 90 percent of them are typically uncontested. This likely would result in the same folks that are interested in those service area boards to still remain and serve on those boards, however, it would be a cost savings to the borough and we feel it would be a much more efficient way to fill those service area boards.”
The full report and list of recommendations made by the election stakeholders group is available online. There’s no timetable for when the assembly might consider those potential changes.