City Borough of Juneau’s City Clerk Beth McEwen gives a tour of the new local Ballot Processing Center to residents on Monday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

City Borough of Juneau’s City Clerk Beth McEwen gives a tour of the new local Ballot Processing Center to residents on Monday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

City unveils new Ballot Processing Center

It opens just weeks ahead of the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 4

Just in time for the upcoming local election, the city now has its own secure place to process ballots right here in the capital city.

The City and Borough of Juneau’s new Ballot Processing Center located just off Thane Road was unveiled to the public on Monday with CBJ City Clerk, Beth McEwen providing walkthroughs and an explanation of the facility. McEwen said the center will provide the city with a location and the equipment to conduct the coming municipal election entirely in Juneau, which for the past two years hasn’t been the case McEwen said.

[CBJ preps for upcoming election: City officials share what residents can expect for this coming Oct. 4 municipal election]

In the previous two years, Juneau has provided a mail-in ballot option due to safety concerns during the height of the pandemic and to facilitate ballots, the city has sent the ballots to Anchorage to process the results because Juneau did not have a processing center.

With the decision to continue the by-mail/hybrid election into the 2022 municipal election, the Assembly gave the OK for the city to allocate $700,000 to go toward funding to funding the partial reconstruction of a CBJ-owned warehouse into a new CBJ Ballot Processing Center, and cover equipment and security costs as well.

City Manager Rorie Watt said there were several costs associated with the center, and said around half of the $700,000 was spent on the equipment and the other half was used for renovation costs.

A ballot sorting machine sits on a desk at the city’s new local Ballot Processing center. In the previous two years, Juneau has sent ballots to Anchorage to process the results because the city did not have a processing center. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

A ballot sorting machine sits on a desk at the city’s new local Ballot Processing center. In the previous two years, Juneau has sent ballots to Anchorage to process the results because the city did not have a processing center. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

McEwen said that for the last year, she and contractors had worked together to create the new processing center in Juneau which is now ready with the election just weeks away. Now that it’s a reality, she said it will speed things up while also being extremely secure all here in Juneau.

Some of the security measures include nine security cameras live streaming the center at all times, multiple gated enclosures within the facility for storing ballots and air-gapped computers that are not connected to the internet which reduces the risk the devices could be hacked.

“We want to make sure everything that we do in elections is confidential — there’s a lot of confidential information and you want to make sure that the process is transparent but secure,” she said.

Monday was the only day that the public would have the opportunity to walk through the area and see each step of the process up close and explained by McEwen before it needs to be closed off for confidentiality. However, residents can still come to the lobby of the warehouse and look through the large glass mirror to watch the process through the period that ballots will be coming in, McEwen said.

Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

Key times, dates and places for the upcoming municipal election

Election Day: Tuesday, Oct. 4

Final day to register: Sunday, Sept. 4

In-person registration: Municipal Clerk’s Office, All three Juneau Public Libraries, State of Alaska Division of Elections – Region I Office and Zach Gordon Youth Center.

By-mail voting: Ballots will be mailed Tuesday, Sept. 13 to voters on file. Ballots can be returned to one of the two Juneau Vote Centers, to one of two secure drop boxes or via the USPS. (Must be mailed no later than Election Day).

Vote Centers: City Hall Assembly Chambers open weekdays Sept. 19- Oct. 4. Mendenhall Valley Public Library open Sept. 19- Oct. 4, Saturdays, Sept. 24 and Oct. 1. Varying hours.

Secure Ballot Drop Boxes: Auke Bay-Statter Harbor boat launch parking Lot, Douglas Library/Fire Hall Community Building. Will be available 24/7 from 10 a.m., Sept. 19 and locked 8 p.m. Oct. 4.

Temporary address voting applications: Must be received by the city clerk’s office no later than Sept. 27.

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