A completed ballot is dropped into the ballot drop box in the Don D. Statter Harbor parking lot on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

A completed ballot is dropped into the ballot drop box in the Don D. Statter Harbor parking lot on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

City drops witness requirement for mail-in ballots

Voters will not have to obtain second signature

Witness signatures will no longer be needed on mail-in ballots in the upcoming municipal election after the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly passed an emergency ordinance Monday night waiving the rule.

“The witness signature requirement may disenfranchise certain voters who are unable to socially distance or otherwise find a qualified witness as the result of the pandemic,” the ordinance says. “(City law) requires the election official to review by-mail ballots and verify the signature of the voter, providing safeguards in ensuring the registered voter casted the by-mail ballot.”

The city decided to conduct its municipal elections in October entirely by mail due to concern for having large groups of people gathering together during the COVID-19 pandemic. But ballots typically require two signatures, one from the voter and another from someone over 18 who can serve as witness to the voter. Some Assembly members were concerned certain restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 could also make it difficult for some to obtain a witness signature.

[What to expect during mail-in municipal election]

The city is conducting its elections this year in coordination with the Municipality of Anchorage, which has a purpose-built elections center that electronically verifies ballot signature with those in state databases from voter applications, according to the center’s virtual tour. Election personnel compared signatures as well and the center is open to the public on Election Day.

Waiving the signature requirement wasn’t much of a concern, Assembly member Loren Jones said, but making the change so close to an election was. Ballots had already been printed with a certain set of instructions, Jones said, and voters might confuse instructions for the municipal election with those for the statewide and federal elections in November.

“If we want to do this in future elections, I’m all in,” Jones said at the meeting. “You don’t change instructions in the middle of something as important as a vote.”

City Attorney Robert Palmer said Anchorage dropped it’s witness requirement several years ago and while the city typically follows how the state handles elections, he wasn’t aware of any law that actually compelled the city to do so.

Information on how to vote by mail is available at the city’s website, juneau.org/clerk/elections.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

More in News

The site of the future Glory Hall at the corner of Teal Street and Alpine Avenue in the Mendenhall Valley. Co-located will be the Southeast Community Services Center, forming and integrated campus, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Trust donates $150K to Juneau community services center

The structure will be a hub for many of Juneau’s community-oriented nonprofits.

Hand sanitizer and declaration forms for out-of-state arrivals to the Juneau International Airport on Oct. 12, 2020. An update to the state's travel mandates and to the way tests from the airport are processed, out-of-state arrivals must now register both with the state's traveler website and a private lab's website. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
City announces new requirements for out-of-state arrivals

Updated travel mandate changes process.

This is a police car.
Police calls for Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

teeaassee
Firefighters respond to a Friday night fire

At about 10:30 p.m., CCFR responded to a residential fire on the 8000 block of Thunder Street.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. (courtesy photo)
Election 2020: A conversation with U.S. House Rep. Don Young

The congressman discusses economics, oil and the stimulus

This is a police car.  It has always been a police car.
Police calls for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Capital Transit is tightening passenger limits in response to raised community risk levels, Oct. 22, 2020. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Risk level means new limits for city buses

Fewer passengers will be allowed in busses and vans.

This is a police car.  It has always been a police car.
Police calls for Friday, Oct. 23, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read