Kim Lofstedt casts her vote early in Alaska’s Primary Election at Kenai City Hall on Aug. 17, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Kim Lofstedt casts her vote early in Alaska’s Primary Election at Kenai City Hall on Aug. 17, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Borough to acquire accessible voting equipment

The acquisition will be in response to allegations of discrimination by a voter

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is taking steps to make elections more accessible to people with disabilities.

Following 2015’s municipal election, Richard Malley filed a complaint with the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights (ASCHR) alleging that the borough had discriminated against him when it failed to provide a voting machine that could accommodate his vision disability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act of 2020 (HAVA) are among federal laws that require “full and equal opportunity” for all eligible voters to vote, which includes having an accessible voting system for people with disabilities.

ASCHR offered a conciliation agreement instead of proceeding to a public hearing, which the borough entered into in December 2018. As part of that agreement, the borough agreed to adopt a voting system that allows for private, independent voting by visually impaired citizens.

During a Tuesday meeting of the Borough Assembly’s Finance Committee, Assembly Vice President Brent Johnson said that the borough could have satisfied Malley’s complaint by adopting a hybrid election system that increased mail-in voting. That option was defeated by borough voters during the last election cycle.

Instead, the borough will proceed with a plan to purchase seven and lease 26 new voting machines and their associated equipment. Under that plan, $105,816 would be moved from the general fund to the capital project fund for the purchase of seven ADA-compliant voting machines and association shipping costs. Additionally, $148,976 would be used for the FY2021 annual lease cost of 26 additional ADA compliant systems, which includes system hardware, implementation, software licensing, support services and $20,000 in shipping costs.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship said Friday that the borough will have the opportunity to purchase the leased voting systems at the end of two years, or to continue leasing them.

According to the legislation, borough code allowed Blankenship to contract specialized materials and supplies without a competitive bid process. Nine voting system providers in the United States have been able to meet testing standards and accreditation requirements that are required to receive Election Assistance Commission certification under HAVA to provide an ADA compliant voting system that can accommodate the borough’s needs since 2007.

Of those nine providers, only two responded to the borough’s request for quotes: Dominion Voting Systems Inc. and Election Systems & Software, Inc. Of the two, the borough determined that Dominion was the better choice. Dominion’s ADA compliant system is used by the State of Alaska and by municipalities and boroughs across the state, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which has used Dominion elections products, equipment and software since 1999. The borough’s existing equipment, however, is outdated and is not ADA compliant.

During Tuesday’s finance committee meeting, assembly member Bill Elam questioned how comfortable people are with Dominion citing recent national discourse surrounding the company. Former U.S. President Donald Trump has made several false claims about the company, whose software is used in many states. As it relates to the 2020 election, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has said that there is no evidence any voting systems deletes, lost or changed votes, or was in any way compromised, according to the Associated Press.

“From a user’s perspective, I am 100% comfortable with Dominion,” Blankenship said Tuesday.

Borough IT Director Ben Hanson, who testified before the committee on Tuesday, said that in addition to Dominion being logistically more sensible for the borough, he did extensive research into claims made about the company and feels comfortable using the machines in the borough.

“I have yet to see a definitive, confirmable, corroborated piece of information about an exploit [or] a vulnerability that was disclosed,” Hanson said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of high-level technical details that are put out with no actual low-level corroborating components of information.”

Hanson said that the borough will also take additional steps to isolate the network and that, ideally, the borough would have a single server install like they do now, which would allow analog phone lines to be physically disconnected or for the modem to be turned off between elections.

“So you’re not talking about putting locks on the doors, you’re talking about not having doors?” Elam asked.

“That’s the idea,” Hanson said.

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the assembly’s April 20 meeting.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read