Voting is the most important responsibility we have to ensure a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” I have fond memories of taking my young daughter to the voting booths at Kachemak Community Center and instilling in her the importance of being there.
For decades, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has generally done an excellent job of conducting municipal elections. Unfortunately, we have fallen short in providing full access to disabled voters. In an attempt to rectify that, the Borough has entered into a conciliatory agreement with the Alaska Human Rights Commission, requiring us take some major steps in modifying how the public can cast votes.
In 2019, the KPB brought together a large group from all corners of the borough to discuss how best to improve our voting system. After seven months of public meetings and collaborative work, the Election Stakeholders Group unanimously recommended the Borough adopt a hybrid vote by mail (VBM) system.
Ordinance 2020-24 was introduced to achieve that recommendation and will have public hearing on June 2. As a co-sponsor of the ordinance, I firmly believe that adopting a hybrid VBM where all registered voters can cast their ballot either in person or via U.S. mail will encourage higher voter turnout and ensure that voter fraud will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. In fact, the KPB has utilized vote by mail in a number of our more rural districts for many years with no instances of voter fraud.
In addition to accommodating disabled and other voters who might have difficulty traveling to the polls, think about other challenges to travel that could arise. Recent wildfires, flooding and earthquakes, not to mention the current pandemic, remind us how our travel plans can be thwarted on a moment’s notice. A hybrid VBM system will ensure voter participation remains possible regardless of situations that might keep an individual voter (or many voters) home on election day.
The fact is, VBM is a safe, secure and fiscally responsible method for conducting elections during these uncertain times. If adopted, all registered voters in the borough will receive a ballot in the mail a few weeks ahead of election day. You will have time to complete the ballot and return it via U.S. mail or deposit it in secure drop boxes strategically located in a variety of communities. You also have the option to bring the ballot to one of five Vote Centers around the borough. Vote Centers can also provide you with a ballot to cast in person.
I urge you to learn as much as you can about the hybrid vote by mail system and ask the challenging questions. It will be a change to our traditional way of voting and may take some time getting used to, but I believe it makes sense to vote by mail, a method that has proved successful in several other states and municipalities in Alaska.
Let’s make it easy to vote and hard to cheat!
Willy Dunne is a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly but the views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the views of the Assembly or Borough.