Elections Options ordinance withstands challenge from vote-by-mail foes

Jun 18, 2020

Credit UCSD.edu

About two weeks after the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed an expanded elections options ordinance, it came up for a reconsideration vote about four hours into Tuesday night’s regular meeting. A reconsideration vote is a final effort to change something that’s already passed.
    During the meeting, Seward Assemblymember Kenn Carpenter explained why he asked to have the expanded elections ordinance reconsidered after it passed 6-to-3 two weeks earlier.
    “I put this up for reconsideration because I've had a lot of contact with people saying no to the mail-in vote,” Carpenter said. “I've researched the mail in vote. It's not as honest as people say it is. It's not as cheap as people say, it's more expensive.”
    Carpenter claimed the comments he has received skewed sharply against expanding voting options. While arguing for reconsideration, Carpenter said there were in fact more comments against vote-by-mail, if 50 last-minute signatures he tried to add earlier in the day were counted. He lashed out at assembly members who said they saw a clear preference in favor of expanded voting options from all across the borough.
    “And by the fact that because we have two assembly men that said quote, 'by the people for the people and we, the people.' Since we have more people that say that they're against it, then we should be for the people and not against the people,” Carpenter said. “So I'm going to use their quotes against them."
    KBBI has asked the Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk’s Office for all emails sent to each assembly member, individually or as a group, both to their borough and personal emails on this ordinance to better gauge sentiment on the issue. So far the only response we’ve received is a link to the public comments posted online with the ordinance on the borough’s website.
    Carpenter was so insistent in his opposition that he even needed to be reined in by Assembly President Kelly Cooper after Assemblymember Hal Smalley of Kenai was done speaking.
    “From where I stand is, we've already debated this,” Smalley said. “We took our testimony and we made a decision and I'm going to stick with my decision and vote against reconsideration.”
    “For the people, by the people,” Carpenter interjected.
    “Yep, you got it,” Smalley countered.
    “Mr. Carpenter, let's remember our decorum. Wait till you're recognized, please,” Cooper chided. “I appreciate what you're trying to say.”
    Assemblymember Willy Dunne of Fritz Creek countered Carpenter’s last minute signature claim by reminding the assembly of all the support the ordinance has gathered through a long and involved process.
    “We've got resolutions from cities, representing thousands of people in the borough and you know, a last minute attempt to have a few signatures, well, apparently 50 signatures, I haven't seen it yet, but, anyway, a last minute claim that there's more people against it than for it, I think it's disingenuous,” Dunne said.
    The motion to reconsider the borough elections ordinance failed along the same voting lines on which the ordinance passed two weeks ago, with only Carpenter, Sterling's Norm Blakley, and Nikiski’s Jesse Bjorkman seeking to reverse it. The ordinance will go into effect in 2021.