Voters to advise on by-mail elections

Voters this Oct. 7 will have the opportunity to advise local public servants whether the Kenai Peninsula Borough should hold elections by mail.

The borough assembly at its Tuesday meeting passed a resolution to ask voters to provide the body with their input on the issue.

At its July 1 meeting, the assembly considered and failed the resolution for the advisory vote, sponsored by assembly member Dale Bagley, and the ordinance for the assembly to enact vote-by-mail elections, sponsored by assembly member Bill Smith. Both gave notice of reconsideration to consider the votes at the following meeting.

“This is a very major change in the way the borough in the future might be conducting its elections doing by-mail,” Bagley said. “And I’d like to hear what the people have to say, and I also think it’s part of an educational process so they know that we’re looking at doing this.”

While Smith sponsored the ordinance, which introduced the concept of by-mail elections the assembly, he said Tuesday he was supportive of the resolution.

Following the passage of the resolution, Smith’s ordinance was postponed to January 2015.

Assembly members Kelly Wolf, Mako Haggerty and Wayne Ogle voted against putting the advisory question on the ballot.

Smith originally introduced vote-by-mail to the assembly in the hope that by-mail elections would increase voter turnout. Last year the borough saw about 21 percent voter turnout.

He previously said he initially thought vote-by-mail elections would save the borough money. However, according to a fiscal note prepared by Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship, voting by mail will cost more money — $57,420 for mayoral elections and $23,090 for non-mayoral elections.

If the borough does hold elections by mail, citizens can still vote in person at absentee voting sites. Of the 28 precincts within the borough, six are currently absentee-by-mail only.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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