Shannan Greene (left) and Sharyn Augustine hold signs on April 27 urging residents to sign recall petitions for Juneau Board of Education President Deedie Sorensen and Vice President Emil Mackey due to their roles in a budget crisis for the current fiscal year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Shannan Greene (left) and Sharyn Augustine hold signs on April 27 urging residents to sign recall petitions for Juneau Board of Education President Deedie Sorensen and Vice President Emil Mackey due to their roles in a budget crisis for the current fiscal year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

School board recall petitions submitted; supporters of Saturday cruise ship ban need more signatures

Third initiative seeking to repeal default by-mail elections also has 10 days to get more signers.

Supporters of a proposal to ban large cruise ships on Saturdays in Juneau need another 290 signatures within 10 days to place the measure on the fall election ballot, while petitioners seeking to recall two Juneau Board of Education members will learn within those 10 days if their initial signature-gathering efforts are sufficient.

Another local ballot petition seeking to repeal an ordinance making by-mail elections the default at the municipal level is far short of the necessary total to qualify for the ballot, with supporters only gathering 968 verified signatures during the initial 30-day period and needing 1,391 more during the next 10 days, according to a letter dated Sunday by Beth McEwen, municipal clerk for the City and Borough of Juneau.

The proposal banning cruise ships with a capacity for 250 or more passengers on Saturdays and July 4 has 2,069 verified signatures of the 2,459 submitted, with 2,359 required to qualify for the ballot, according to a notice also sent Sunday by the municipal clerk’s office. The required total is 25% of the total voters in the most recent regular municipal election.

The petitioners for the “Ship-Free Saturday” initiative have until June 20 to collect the remaining signatures following their initial 30-day effort. Karla Hart, one of the lead advocates of the measure, stated in an email Monday evening signature gathering is already underway again.

“We’ve a solid team of volunteers, so the work is divided and I’m 100% confident that we will have more than enough validated signatures to submit at our next deadline, on June 20,” she wrote.

The petition seeking to repeal Juneau’s by-mail election ordinance is in response to the Juneau Assembly in May of 2023 approving a measure making such elections the default unless otherwise directed by the Assembly. In the letter from McEwen to supporters, she stated that of the 60 petition books issued 15 were returned blank, three were rejected due to signature errors and two were not returned.

With both the cruise ship and election repeal petitions “election officials identified some signatures that were disqualified for suspected violations,” according to the letters from McEwen. Hart noted such rejections are routine for reasons such as people using nicknames, transposed numbers on addresses and occasional duplicate signatures.

“Our most prominent reasons (with) this petition were people not including their unit numbers with their address and people who have not updated their physical address with Division of Elections so the address where they live now doesn’t match the address on file,” she wrote. “Other reasons included illegible writing (anyone who has ever tried to transcribe sign-in lists knows this challenge), signatures that didn’t match the official signature on file (think electronic checkout scribble), use of abbreviations, such as FC for Fritz Cove Road.”

Meanwhile, the 10-day review process is underway for separate ballot petitions seeking to recall school board president Deedie Sorensen and vice president Emil Mackey for “failure to understand the FY24 budget and accounting errors resulting in $7.9M deficit and taxpayer loan from CBJ,” according to the letter submitted by supporters to the municipal clerk’s office. Supporters had a 60-day period to collect signatures, which had to be turned in to the clerk’s office on Monday.

McEwen, on Tuesday, said supporters of the initiatives told her the petition for Mackey has 2,408 signatures and petition for Sorensen has 2,396. That means a rejection of even a small percentage of those signatures during the next 10 days will require more to be gathered by supporters.

The recall petitions were spurred by a financial crisis revealed in January which resulted in the school board adopting a school consolidation plan that takes effect July 1. Supporters have stated that in addition to Sorensen and Mackey being the board’s two foremost leaders, they are also the only two of the seven board members who can be recalled this fall due to rules that prohibit such votes against candidates up for election or recently elected.

The three-year terms for Sorensen and Mackey end in 2025. Sorensen stated earlier this year she is retiring and will not seek reelection next year.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com.

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