A sign designates a vote center during the recent municipal election. The center offered a spot for voters to drop off ballots or fill a ballot out in person. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

A sign designates a vote center during the recent municipal election. The center offered a spot for voters to drop off ballots or fill a ballot out in person. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Opinion: Another reason to return to in-person voting

Why are we continuing to do mail-in elections?

  • Rick Currier
  • Wednesday, January 5, 2022 3:02pm
  • Opinion

By Rick Currier

CBJ Assembly member Wade Bryson’s recent statement on KINY Radio that 336 ballots were declined for lack of post marks reveals yet another reason why mail-in voting doesn’t work. Bryson suggested that voters should personally witness postmarking by the postal clerk. Some assembly members have said that the matter needs to be addressed and have called for U.S Postal officials to appear before the assembly to discuss solutions. We’ve all seen this rodeo: postal managers, like other government officials in other such failure situations, will gravely offer solutions such as better employee training and putting more emphasis on processing ballots as opposed to other mail. In reality, at the deck plate level, little will change because postal employees have many impacts on their time and all are important.

Why is the assembly trying to fix an inherently broken system? There are several fallacies with their approach. First, most polling places are by design closer to where voters live than the four post offices in Juneau. If you can’t be sure that your ballot is postmarked without going to the post office to witness it being postmarked, why not go to a closer poling place where the staff is solely dedicated to processing your ballot. The post offices, on the other hand, are tasked by law with handling a myriad of duties from packages to passport photos. Polling places have the additional advantage of verifying voters against the list of registered voters, as well as maintaining a much more secure chain of custody for the ballots. It’s a tried-and-true system that has worked fairly flawlessly for generations.

Our mail-in ballot alternative is proving to be bug-ridden and rife with potential for abuse. The convenience of mail-in voting quickly dissipates if voters have to take their ballots to the post office to witness post marking. The justification that mail-in voting increases voter turnout was undermined in the last election in which the turnout percentage was comparable with traditional municipal elections.

Why are we continuing to do mail-in elections? It costs more, it’s a waste of resources if 27,000 ballots are mailed out, but only about 4,000 are returned, and over 300 of those are declined due to lack of postmarks. In addition, we’ll never know how many were lost in the mail. The city is spending money to renovate a warehouse for mail in ballot processing. It seems that this system requires one work around after another. All of this for a process that has less accountability, more inconvenience, and more cost. The end of the pandemic is in sight. By next election, there should be no reason to keep polling places closed.

• Rick Currier has lived in Juneau since 1989. He votes regularly, and has provided citizen input to the Docks and Harbors Board, the Planning Commission, and the City Assembly.Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

More in Opinion

t
Opinion: New to Medicare? Please consider this

Please choose “original” Medicare and avoid the so-called “advantage” plans

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

The Alaska State Capitol awaits a legislators forming new majority coalitions and the return of Gov. Mike Dunleavy after the winners of the general election were announced Wednesday. The Senate will have a 17-member bipartisan ruling coalition, while the House arrangement remains uncertain due to at least one likely recount and questions about partisan alignments. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The rising purple tide in the state Senate

A purple tide threatens to inundate the uncompromising wing of the state Republican Party.

t
Opinion: Giving is for everyone – and the time to act is now

You don’t have to be rich, or prominent, or famous to care about your community…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

Norwegian Cruise Lines announced in late August that it would donate a 2.9 acre plot of land owned by the cruise line since 2019 on Juneau's waterfront to Huna Totem Corporation to develop. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Aak’w Landing is Juneau’s most promising new project

Now, more than ever, our community needs the jobs, tax revenue, and stability…

t
Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

This photo available under a Creative Commons license shows a kelp forest. (Camille Pagniello)
Opinion: Indigenous-led mariculture and traditional economies set an example for our future

November is Native American Heritage Month, and traditional Indigenous knowledge is essential… Continue reading

Exhibit curator Ron Carver designed “Mỹ Lai – A Massacre Took 504 Souls, and Shook the World"  to progress from gruesome images to the soldiers who courageously intervened. And to those who made sure America and the world learned the truth. (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: The power in attempting to memorialize the truth

Real heroes emerge from horrific events.

t
Opinion: My Turn was right on the money

While I’ve never met Mr. Adler I share his concerns.

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Mayor and assembly must rein in the assessor’s office

The unconscionable way the assessor’s office is treating commercial property owners must end.