Homer elections certified -- Castner, Lord and Venuti reelected
Absentee, special needs, and questioned ballots for the Homer Municipal Election were counted Monday afternoon by the city’s Election Canvass Board. Nearly half of the 1,901 ballots cast, 863 of them, were made in one of those ways. There was an exceptional turnout of 37 percent.
The influx of votes did not change any of the outcomes from last week. However, in the mayoral race, challenger Donna Aderhold picked up 474 votes to incumbent Mayor Ken Castner’s gain of 363, narrowing the gap between them to 84 votes. Castner’s victory margin was 52 percent to 47 percent.
Conversely, the incumbents benefited the most from absentee votes in the council race, with members Rachel Lord and Caroline Venuti more than doubling their election night totals. The pair led challengers George Hall and Raymond Walker by a few percentage points last week, but both women got over 600-vote boosts from absentees.
Lord received the most votes, total, with 1,140, or 32 percent of votes cast. Venuti got 1,106 votes, for 31 percent.
Walker’s final total was 656 votes for 19 percent, which moved him ahead of Hall, who gathered 618 total votes for 18 percent.
The mayor and both councilmembers were sworn in last night. Castner will serve a second two-year term, while Lord and Venuti were reelected to three-year terms. Venuti and Lord were thankful for the voters’ support.
“I want to thank the voters. I'll do my very best to represent you all at this table, when I sit here. I really appreciate it. I felt a lot of support this week,” Venuti said. “And I want to really say thank you to all the people who stopped and wished us well. And they all agree that we have a wonderful working city council. And they're looking forward to what we're going to be doing.”
“Congratulations, Mayor; congratulations, Caroline. And, and I'll echo the thanks to the voters for putting faith in me and all of us for another term, I am really honored to be able to continue to sit at the table,” Lord said. “And this is a volunteer job that, you know, we all get to take turns at, if we have such interest in doing so. So, you know, I would also echo the thanks to everybody who ran for seats and hope that people continue to consider running for seats every year, because it is a really important part functional local government.”
City Clerk Melissa Jacobson explained that the city worked with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk’s office to better reach potential voters.
“Typically, we have our own absentee by mail application and the borough has their own absentee by mail application,” Jacobson said. “And they offered us the opportunity to include a checkbox for the city of Homer, like the cities of Soldotna and Seward and Kenai, Kachemak City do.”
Jacobson said there are usually only about 20 to 25 requests during an election year for absentee-by-mail ballots.
“And this year we had over 440 requests for absentee ballots by mail. And 324 came back, in the mail. And so that was an amazing turnout. I was expecting maybe a hundred,” Jacobson said. “Definitely more than we're used to. We had a higher number of absentee voters in person also. Up around 489. So we had huge voter turnout.”
She said the Canvass Board worked over the weekend to verify the flood of ballots.
“Kate Finn and Louise Hall came in on Friday and helped us with canvassing the ballots that we received in absentee voting. Just to verify that all those 400 plus voters are in fact registered to vote in the city limits. We had to do the same process for the ballots we received by mail. We also have to verify all of those ballots with the registers from election day to ensure that none of the voters voted twice. And we also had to verify that the voters by mail didn't also vote absentee in person,” Jacobson said. “There's a lot of checks and balances that go into the process.”
One of those checks and balances is doing the count in the open, which any citizen can observe, such as Larry Sloan.
“I just want everyone to know that I sat in on the Canvass Board meeting. And from what I can see, it would be extremely difficult for anybody, if you continue to use this process, to ever accuse the city clerk’s office of any form of election fraud,” Sloan said. “There’s a lot of extensive safeguards in place, in my opinion, on how the city verifies the legitimacy of the election.”
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk's Office plans to count the thousands of absentee ballots it has received through Tuesday before finalizing the results for various borough elections.