Maralee Guiher drops off her ballot during the City and Borough of Juneau Municipal Election on Oct. 6, 2020. On Monday, city assembly members decided to follow the 2020 playbook for the 2021 municipal election. Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters and at least two polling places and drop boxes will be available. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Maralee Guiher drops off her ballot during the City and Borough of Juneau Municipal Election on Oct. 6, 2020. On Monday, city assembly members decided to follow the 2020 playbook for the 2021 municipal election. Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters and at least two polling places and drop boxes will be available. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Municipal election to be conducted mostly by mail

At least two polling places and drop boxes will be available

With the clock ticking on Juneau’s Oct. 6 municipal election, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly pulled the lever for another election conducted primarily by mail at its Monday night meeting.

The decision only applies to the next municipal election. Assembly members will court public input before deciding how to conduct future municipal elections.

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Although the pandemic forced the move to the mail-in election, voter turnout was high compared to historical standards, with about 40% of ballots coming back. In addition, voter feedback was largely positive, City Clerk Beth McEwen told the Empire in a phone interview earlier this year.

In January, McEwen asked the assembly to weigh in with direction on the preferred process for the election, noting that planning for the mayoral election slated for fall needs to begin in April.

McEwen explained that a mail process elongates the election timeline, requiring earlier filing and taking longer to certify because Juneau doesn’t have equipment capable of locally counting votes cast by mail.

The October 2020 election will serve as a template for the October 2021 election. All registered voters will receive a ballot in the mail. The returned ballots will be processed by the clerk’s staff in Anchorage on the Municipality of Anchorage’s counting equipment.

In addition to mail-in ballots, at least two polling places and two drop boxes will be available.

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The vote-by-mail process is a deviation from elections held before 2020 and to state and federal elections held in the borough.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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