A 2022 voter information pamphlet rests on a desk in the Peninsula Clarion offices on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

A 2022 voter information pamphlet rests on a desk in the Peninsula Clarion offices on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Borough to no longer mail election pamphlets

A pamphlet with information about how to access an online version will be mailed for three years

People with mailboxes on the Kenai Peninsula Borough will no longer be mailed physical copies of the borough’s voter information pamphlet following a 7-2 vote by borough assembly members in favor of the move Tuesday.

The ordinance, sponsored by Assembly President Brent Johnson and Assembly Vice President Tyson Cox, cites the $30,000 cost-savings the borough would see by eliminating the practice and the high number of brochures that end up discarded in post offices around the borough as reasons the pamphlets should no longer be mailed.

“What we were finding is that there are stacks of (pamphlets) that are being left at the post office, and that people really aren’t utilizing those as much as they used to,” Cox said Tuesday. “I mean, the way we use technology and the way that we get our information has changed.”

The legislation was amended during Tuesday’s meeting to say that, for the three years following the legislation’s passage, the Kenai Peninsula Borough will mail postcards to borough mailboxes that explain how the online pamphlet can be accessed and that physical copies of the pamphlet are available in the Kenai Peninsula Borough clerk’s office.

The legislation says that physical copies of the pamphlet will also be available at all city clerk’s offices and the borough’s annex offices in Seward and Homer. Voters can also request a physical pamphlet from the borough clerk’s office.

Assembly member Bill Elam, who represents Sterling and Funny River, said he would vote in opposition to the ordinance because he doesn’t think it’s time for the borough to do away with mailed pamphlets.

“I like the idea of saving some money by not having a bunch of overprint but I don’t think that we’re quite ready to take this aggressive of a stance,” Elam said.

Public comments submitted in response to the legislation suggested that, if the borough opts to do away with mailing brochures, that the money saved be used to boost voter education in other ways, such as by mailing the brochures to community hubs instead of running advertisements or public service announcements.

“It’s a challenge to increase voter turnout,” wrote Therese Lewandowski of Homer, who submitted a letter in opposition to the legislation. “It’s a challenge to educate voters on dates/deadlines, candidates and propositions. I have worked the elections here in Homer since 2020 and have known folks to come in to vote only because they saw the “vote here” clapboard on the road and have little but a vague idea of what the election is for.”

Mary Griswold, who also submitted a public comment, said she supports doing away with the practice of mailing brochures, noting that technology provides alternatives to creating piles of discarded brochures in the post offices.

“Please make an effort to supply local libraries with copies. Most people who do not use the internet rely on libraries for access to important information and documents,” she said.

The same legislation also wrote out of code a requirement that the borough clerk solicit “pro” and “con” statements for each ballot measure for publication in the voter pamphlet. Cox said during Tuesday’s meeting that the borough does not change anything about the statements as received unless there are swear words used.

“The administration of this code provision has proven to be difficult and an unnecessary point of contention in the public process,” Acting Borough Clerk Michele Turner wrote in a Dec. 1 memo to assembly members. “Nothing in the code prevents a proponent or opponent of a ballot propositions from submitting a statement in order to further their stated position on a ballot proposition.”

Tuesday’s meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly can be streamed on the borough’s website at kpb.legistar.com.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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