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Soldotna overhauls elections code

Posted: June 8, 2014 - 7:19pm  |  Updated: June 8, 2014 - 7:40pm

The Soldotna Elections Code has received a total overhaul for the first time since 1987. The new code is in effect.

Soldotna City Clerk Shellie Saner said it was time to make revisions. The project took approximately one month to complete, she said.

The most significant change was the introduction of the option for electronic absentee voting, Saner said.

“It’s another option for absentee voting,” Saner said. “In 1987 people weren’t really excited about electronic voting.”

Shifting perceptions regarding the security of using electronic methods of ballot counting is partially why Saner decided to take a look at the entire code.

The revisions also came out of a need to unify city regulations with the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s code, and the State of Alaska’s code, Saner said. Most of the work was cleaning up language and making small specifications, she said.

It is the responsibility of the Clerk to revise the elections code, according Soldotna’s Municipal Code.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Clerk Johni Blankenship said the borough’s elections code has not had a major overhaul for 15 years. The potential for passing a vote-by-mail ordinance would be the biggest overhaul in quite some time, she said.

Borough assembly member Dale Bagley said he expects the ordinance to draw significant debate from assembly members.

Former borough clerk Linda Murphy, who is now a member of the Soldotna City Council, completed the most recent overhaul.

Murphy said at the time she chose to revise the code because it was not set up to handle an updated form of technology, optical scan ballots.

When state, borough and city codes are lined up, it is easier for the ballot counters because they don’t have to be trained for different modes of recording, Murphy said.

It also makes it easier for voters who turn in ballots for state, borough and city elections, Murphy said.

Soldotna council member Pete Sprague said any alterations that encourage more community members to come out and vote is a good thing, as long as the regulations retain the security of voter privacy.

Not everything old is obsolete however, Saner said. She said she left some sections of the old code unchanged.

The section describing how to hand count ballots will remain necessary for a long time, Saner said.

Kelly Sullivan can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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