voting

Sabine Poux/KDLL

When it comes to its new voting machines, the borough is making a list and checking it twice.

Teri Birchfield and Linda Cusack with the canvass board were running through a checklist of tests Thursday morning on one of the borough's new Dominion Voting Systems machines.

They said most voters won’t register the new technology when they come in to cast their ballots. But for voters with disabilities, it could be game changing.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Tomorrow is municipal election day. But many Kenai Peninsula Borough residents have already voted.

In a typical year, around 300 to 500 people vote in borough elections by mail, said borough Clerk Johni Blankenship. This year, the borough sent out absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the borough — about 3,000 — in mid-August. Blankenship says they have received about 2,000 back.

As of this morning, another 1,200 residents had voted early in person. That’s consistent with prior years.

The sponsors of the referendum to repeal the borough’s ordinance offering a vote-by-mail option have turned in their signatures.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough clerk’s office is still evaluating the petition booklets for validity. Borough clerk Johni Blankenship says they have until Aug. 6 to ensure that the petitioners gathered at least 1,362 valid signatures from Kenai Peninsula Borough voters.

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The borough’s addition of a vote-by-mail option, set to go into effect next year, will stand for now, after the assembly overturned borough mayor Charlie Pierce’s veto.

The ordinance allows voters to choose to vote by mail, but polling places and absentee ballots will still be available. It also extends the amount of time between an election and a run-off, and removes proposition statements from the voter information packet. The ordinance came from a stakeholder working group on election reform, following a lawsuit about equal access to voting within the borough.

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Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has vetoed an ordinance recently passed by the assembly expanding the number of ways to cast a ballot in borough elections.

In his memo to the assembly, Pierce says such a significant change to the borough’s voting procedures shouldn’t be left to the assembly, but rather, put to a vote of the public. Pierce said that such changes would directly impact “the fundamental right to vote.” Pierce also questioned the security of voting by mail, one of the main features of the ordinance.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is looking at instituting voting by mail as early as the 2020 elections. Initially, the reason was part of a conciliatory agreement with the Alaska Human Rights Commission over a complaint that borough polling locations lacked accessibility. 

These days, the coronavirus pandemic is adding even more reason to pivot from in-person voting. The borough commissioned a feasibility study on voting by mail from Resource Data, Inc. Dennis Wheeler presented a summary in a work session for the assembly Tuesday. 

“Poll workers are not going to want to get together in confined areas where it’s difficult to social distance and deal with an influx of public to hand out ballots,” Wheeler said. “It’s something to think about — what impact would COVID have on your ability to staff up, as well as what are the voters going to do and how are they going to react.”

Harvard University

At a gathering held Saturday to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, those of the grandparent generation vowed to continue sharing stories of change, so younger generations wouldn’t take for granted the rights their foremothers didn’t have.

“A little girl came in and greeted me as we were setting up for this, and I told her what we were doing because I think it is so important that we tell the younger generation about how women didn’t always have the right to vote, said Pedginski.

Pedginski  was one of several women sharing family stories about mothers and grandmothers being able to vote for the first time at a Centennial Voices event held at the Soldotna Library. The event included presentations by members of the local League of Women Voters on the history of the women’s right to vote.

It was a long battle, says League member Sammy Crawford.

Election stakeholder group makes voting recommendations

Aug 22, 2019

 

A group that has been looking at how to improve both the voting process and voter turnout on the Kenai has finished its work.

Borough to look at new voting options

Jan 3, 2019

 

How the Kenai Peninsula Borough administers local elections could be changing. A complaint to the state’s Commission for Human Rights in 2015 has led to the borough creating an election stakeholders group that will look for better ways to help residents cast their votes.