Voting By Mail

    Voting by Mail 

    an op-ed by: Peggyann McConnochie

    We are inundated with information from local media, Facebook, and other online sources concerning absentee voting and mail-in voting. In fact, Facebook is doing their level best to keep us in the dark -- have you seen their posts where they conflate (meaning they make us think that the two are the same) "absentee" and "mail-in voting?" 

    If you are anything like me, I always trust but verify. So here is my attempt to verify the information coming our way, particularly as the CBJ gets ready to mail out municipal election ballots in the days leading up to the October 6 election.

    Every year until now, a Juneau voter could request an Absentee Ballot. If you are a qualified registered voter (and that is a crucial distinction), and you knew you would be out of town, you simply located the application online,  at the City or at a public library, completed it and mailed it in. When you received your ballot, you filled it out, your signature on the inner envelope would be witnessed by someone over 18, and you sent it in. Last year, about 2,000 Juneau voters voted Absentee in the municipal election.

    This year our City is experimenting with a Vote by Mail municipal election that will be administered by the City of Anchorage. The cost will be about $175,000, compared to the $98,000 typically spent on a municipal election.

    This is how it is supposed to work: The City will mail every registered voter in Juneau a ballot. 

    Juneau has approximately 27,000 registered voters.  Last year just under 9,000 voters actually turned out. (It is generally assumed that we have more voters on our voting rolls than actually still reside here). 

    What happens if you have moved within the borough? Decided to get your mail at a PO box?? Moved out of State? Or just moved into town? Perhaps a voter in your household has died and the Division of Elections has not updated the voter rolls to reflect that? 

    The CBJ has said that ballots are non-forwardable, so if you will be away from your permanent mailing address, you have to request that a ballot be sent to a temporary address by completing the Application to Vote at a Temporary Address.  

    What if you never receive the election ballot? Can you go to the City Clerk and ask for another ballot? What happens to the one the City sent in the first place? 

    Once you receive your ballot, you can put a 55 cent stamp on your ballot envelope and mail it back, or the City has designated two CBJ Ballot Drop Boxes at City Hall and Mendenhall Valley Library and two Vote Centers – one at the Douglas Library/Firehall and one at Statter Harbor Boat Launch Parking Lot. 

    Did you know that every piece of mail, mailed in Juneau, goes to Anchorage (where sometimes they postmark it and sometimes they don't) and then back to Juneau? I have yet to get a straight answer on when the deadline is for ballots to be counted. Is it on October 6?  That was a hard “no.” Is it when it is postmarked (Juneau or Anchorage)? Is it when it is received? How long will they hold the election-counting open?

    Juneau does not have laws in place to protect us from what is known as "ballot harvesting." That is when "people" pick up ballots, turning in the ones they like, and throwing away the rest. 

    Already the CBJ has made mistakes in providing accurate information on when and how to vote. The Voter Information pamphlet that was sent to every household published incorrect information about the hours for the two Juneau Vote Centers.

    The big question for me is this:  Suppose 10,000 people legitimately return their ballots.  What happens to the other 17,000 ballots floating around the borough?  Will they somehow be voted too?  What safeguards are in place to ensure that an unscrupulous person doesn’t forge a signature and vote a ballot that is not his?

    OK...I can't trust, because I couldn't verify that mail-in voting will provide us with results we can believe in. It’s simply too new (to voters AND to City staff) and too confusing. Anytime we change to something new, there needs to be enough lead time and education and verification to be sure everyone completely understands the drill.


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