Voters fill out ballots in voting booths at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Voters fill out ballots in voting booths at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Municipal election season to kick off

Filing periods for local elections begin in August.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s next municipal election cycle kicks off in just a few weeks.

Aug. 2 marks the opening of the candidate filing period for Soldotna, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and the KPBSD Board of Education for the 2021 municipal election, which will be held on Oct. 5. Kenai’s candidate filing period opens on Aug. 1. Across Kenai, Soldotna, the school board and the borough assembly, 11 seats will be up for grabs.

In Soldotna, three city council seats will be open: Seat A — held by Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings; Seat B — held by Erick Hugarte; and Seat C — held by Jordan Chilson.

Farnsworth-Hutchings and Hugarte were both appointed to their seats and are serving partial terms. Farnsworth-Hutchings joined the council last year, after Paul Whitney ran successfully for mayor of Soldotna and no one ran to fill the seat he vacated on the council.

Hugarte was appointed to the city council last month. The seat he holds became vacant after Pamela Parker announced she would be resigning from the council because her family was moving outside Soldotna city limits, which makes her ineligible to serve on the council.

Jordan Chilson was successfully elected to his seat in 2018. Soldotna city council members serve staggered three-year terms.

Chilson said Saturday that he is planning to file to run for seat this year, but said his campaign will be “low-key.” He said he is looking forward to opportunities to engage with voters, such as candidate forums.

In Kenai, two seats will be on the ballot: those held by Bob Molloy and Victoria Askin.

Molloy, who serves as Kenai’s vice mayor, said during a July 7 meeting of the Kenai City Council that he does not intend to run for reelection in the fall.

“It will be an honor and a privilege to continue serving the citizens of Kenai together with all of you on the city council until [my term] ends this October of 2021 and I want to thank all of the voters that have supported me in the past and who have encouraged me to run again,” Molloy said. “But it is time for me to be term limited. It is time for another qualified resident to have the opportunity to serve on the city council.”

In contrast, council member Victoria Askin said during that meeting that she intends to run for the seat she currently holds. Askin was appointed to a partial term on the council last year after Robert Peterkin resigned. To keep her seat, Askin will need to run for a full three-year term this October.

“I plan to run for my seat on the city council this year,” Askin told the council on Wednesday.

Three seats on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will be up for consideration this fall: District 1 — Kalifornsky; District 6 — the east peninsula; and District 9 — the south peninsula. The assembly’s Kalifornsky seat is currently held by Assembly President Brent Hibbert, while the east peninsula seat is held by Kenn Carpenter. The south peninsula seat is held by Willy Dunne.

Dunne said Friday the borough’s term limits will prevent him from running for his south peninsula seat this fall.

Borough code prohibits people who have served two full terms on the assembly from running for a third term until at least 180 days have passed since the end of their second full term in office.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough also runs elections for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Board of Education, where three seats will appear on the ballot this fall: District 2 — Kenai; District 5 — Sterling/Funny River; and District 8 — Homer. Matt Morse holds the board’s Kenai seat. Mike Illg holds the board’s Homer seat and Dr. Greg Madden holds the board’s Sterling/Funny River seat.

Morse confirmed Friday that he intends to run for one more term on the school board.

The Oct. 5 municipal election will be the first to see the implementation of new election security measures approved earlier this year by the borough assembly.

Those measures include, among other things, establishing a clear chain of custody for ballots during an election, publicly testing election tabulation machines, defining the rights of poll watchers and requiring personal identification for people voting absentee by mail.

Also in use will be new voting equipment that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The borough purchased the new equipment after a borough resident filed a complaint with the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights alleging that the borough discriminated against him when it failed to provide a voting machine that could accommodate his vision disability.

The commission offered the borough 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.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship said Friday that the borough’s ADA equipment is already on-site and confirmed that it will be used for the Oct. 5 election. Blankenship said the borough’s incorporated communities — with the exception of Kachemak City — will all use the new machines this fall. Seward and Seldovia are still pending approval by their respective city councils.

Regarding the public testing of tabulation machines, Blankenship said the borough will be in training for the next two weeks, after which they expect to know more about what the logistics of that public testing will look like.

Sept. 5 is the deadline for people to register to vote or to update their voter registration information.

More information about the Oct. 5 municipal election can be found on the borough’s election webpage at kpb.us/assembly-clerk/elections.

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

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