Commentary: Vote-by-mail makes elections safer and more accessible

May 31, 2020

Credit Willy Dunne

Willy Dunne, resident of Fritz Creek,
 in support of a Borough-wide, vote-by-mail option for elections on the Kenai Peninusla.
The views expressed in this commentary are Mr. Dunne’s alone and do not reflect those of KBBI’s staff board or volunteers.

To respond to this commentary or to submit a commentary on any topic of local interest, email kathleen@kbbi.org.

Transcript:

My name is Willy Dunne. I'm the District Nine Representative on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemby, but the views expressed here are my own and do not represent the Borough or the Assembly.

Voting - it's one of the most important responsibilities we have in our representative democracy.
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.

To this day. Going to the polls is a cherished tradition. The Kenai Peninsula Borough has generally done an excellent job of conducting municipal elections. Unfortunately, one area where we've fallen short is in providing full access to voters with disabilities. In an attempt to rectify that, the Borough has entered into a conciliatory agreement with the Alaska Human Rights Commission requiring us to take some major steps in modifying how the public can cast votes in 2019.

The Borough brought together a large group from all corners of the Peninsula to discuss how best to improve our voting system. After six months of public meetings and collaborative work, the election stakeholder's group unanimously recommended the Borough adopt a hybrid vote-by-mail system. Ordinance 2020 - 24 was introduced to achieve that recommendation, and we'll have a public hearing on June 2nd.

As a co-sponsor of the ordinance. I firmly believe that adopting a hybrid vote-by-mail system where all registered voters can cast their ballot, either in person or via us mail, will encourage higher voter turnout and ensure that voter fraud will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. In fact, the Borough has utilized vote by mail and a number of our more rural districts for many years with no instances of voter fraud.

In addition to accommodating voters with disabilities and others who might have difficulty traveling to the polls on election day, we need also consider other obstacles to travel that could arise. Recent wildfires, flooding, earthquakes. Not to mention the current pandemic. Remind us of how our travel plans can be thwarted on a moment's notice.

A hybrid vote-by-mail system will ensure voter participation regardless of situations that might keep an individual voter or many voters at home on election day. The fact is, vote-by-mail 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 municipal elections. You will have time to complete the ballot and return it via the U. S. mail, or deposit it in a secure Dropbox located in a variety of communities.

You also have the option to bring your 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 certainly be a change in 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 proven successful in other states and municipalities in Alaska. I hope you will join me in supporting vote-by-mail and make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.