Voters line up to put their ballots in a ballot machine at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 3 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Voters line up to put their ballots in a ballot machine at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 3 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Resolution would ask borough voters whether to align state and local election days

A resolution up for consideration by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday would put before peninsula voters the question of whether borough elections should be moved from the first week in October to the first week in November.

Through the resolution, sponsored by assembly member Richard Derkevorkian, borough voters would cast an advisory vote on whether or not to align the borough’s municipal election day with the federal and state election day. If passed, the question would appear before peninsula residents during the borough’s Oct. 3 municipal election.

Even if the borough moved its election day, the borough’s cities would still hold city elections in October, unless individual city councils also voted to move their election.

Derkevorkian in a June 28 memo to assembly members outlined multiple pros and cons of shifting the date, using the Denali and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs as examples. Those boroughs already share their election days with the State of Alaska.

Among the benefits of having locally run and state-run elections on the same day, Derkevorkian wrote, are a potential increase in voter turnout for local races, voters only needing to remember one election date and voters being able to vote on their preferred candidates for local, state and federal elections all at once.

Among the cons of putting the elections on the same day, however, would be requiring voters to stand in two lines to cast ballots in the different races, a potential increase in voter confusion during years where there is no state or federal election and difficulty finding more poll workers.

“As in the Denali and Mat-Su Boroughs, two separate elections being conducted simultaneously will mean: Two separate election boards, two separate voting lines, two separate ballots, and two separate ballot boxes,” Derkevorkian describes as a con.

The assembly has already received two public comments from southern peninsula residents on the issue.

Donna Aderhold, who sits on the Homer City Council but said she was writing in as an individual, asked that assembly members “slow down” and work with city election workers to better understand how the shift would affect how the borough and cities work together for local elections.

“At this point in time, I am not for or against a ballot measure to move the borough election date, but I do believe the assembly, and associated city councils, should be very deliberative in assessing the appropriateness of asking the voters to decide on the change,” Aderhold wrote.

Former assembly member and Fritz Creek resident Will Dunne submitted similar comments, asking that the assembly vote down or postpone the resolution, which he said could have “serious and potentially unintended consequences.” Dunne wrote that the proposed shift in dates “has merit and is worthy of discussion” but the timing of the resolution “prevents meaningful public input.”

“By postponing this resolution you would give time for the voters to fully understand the consequences and give more meaningful input to the Assembly,” Dunne wrote. “Postponement would also give the Cities adequate time to review, discuss and provide their respective Councils to schedule discussions and public hearings.”

The resolution currently sits on the assembly’s consent agenda. Unless it is removed from the consent agenda by an assembly member, it will pass without discussion at the beginning of the meeting, when the assembly approves the consent agenda.

Tuesday’s assembly meeting will be streamed on the borough’s website at kpb.legistar.us.

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

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