January 30, 2014 | Vol. 40, No. 5

Borough to likely stick with traditional in-person voting

Traditional in-person voting will likely remain during local elections after the borough received feedback from citizens and reviewed cost comparisons between traditional and mail-in elections.

The borough assembly sent out surveys last month through Facebook and email inquiries. The majority of respondents preferred in-person voting.

“One of the reasons we even considered this is because we weren’t sure if it would be a benefit for those folks living off the road system,” Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said during last week’s assembly meeting. “We thought maybe this would make it easier. It actually appeared from the responses we got that folks off the road system were pretty much across the board, with a couple of exceptions, in favor of keeping it the way it was rather than going by mail.”

Donnie Hayes, parks and recreation director, organized the survey of Facebook. While the number of respondents weren’t staggering, the ratio of those who wanted mail-in compared to in-person was substantial. Seven respondents voted for mail-in elections while 22 voted for in-person.

An advantage for mail-in elections includes an easier method for voting, which leads to increased voter participation. The Alaska State Division of Elections estimates turnout increases by 10-15 percent when voters use mail-in ballots.

Voter turnout for Petersburg’s municipal elections in October 2012 was around 32 percent.

A down side of mail-in elections is the increased cost. Between expenses such as envelopes, postage and additional ballot printing the estimated cost would increase by more than $16,000.

“I don’t see the need to change something that’s going to cost a bunch of money that’s not totally broke,” Assembly member John Hoag said.

At this point, the borough’s election ordinance won’t be altered to include by-mail elections. The ordinance will go through three readings before the assembly approves it during which time the public is invited to speak on the issue.

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