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: How is mail-in voting an improvement?

Why are we doing it?

  • Tuesday, October 19, 2021 10:38am
  • Opinion

Kudos to Cathy Munoz and Paulette Simpson for their recent My Turns about Juneau’s mail-in ballot policy. They affirmed my reservations about the process. I object to mail in voting: it is not transparent, it can abused ( and has been in other communities), and, as Simpson so eloquently described, takes the enjoyment out of a sacred civic duty. As with Munoz, we received four ballots. One each for my wife and me, and two for sons who haven’t lived in Alaska in decades. One son has my first name and middle initial. We could have easily multi-voted. I’m not convinced that anonymous city employees are carefully matching the name on every submitted ballot with one of three identifying numbers and then comparing signatures with official records. One justification for mail-in voting is increased voter “turn out.” Is it possible that some people are working the system and submitting multiple ballots, thus increasing the number of votes cast (but not the number of actual voters voting)?

We’ve always taken voting seriously. We try to vote in every election. Going to the poles adds validity to the process. Yes, when I knew that I’d be out of town on Election Day, I have on occasion, used the absentee voter option. While I appreciated having that option, I don’t think voting is such an inconvenience that I need to do it by mail for every election. Checking boxes on a mail-in ballot and then dropping it into the mail weeks before the actual election day is unfulfilling. I like to think of it as votus interruptus.

When we voted for the 2016 election, a young man walked into the polling place behind us. He wasn’t registered in our precinct and he was reluctant to present ID. He vaguely stated that his address was “near the airport.” He was instructed on the challenged ballot process. He declined to vote. Do we have such safeguards with mail-in voting?

If we’re doing this to protect people from COVID, then why aren’t we mailing in food and product orders to Fred Meyer, Safeway, Costco, Home Depot, and all the liquor and pot stores in town? These are the places where people congregate in great numbers and for longer times than at the poles (although a friend who voted in person on our recent Election Day had to wait for more than an hour).

The CBJ Assembly has unilaterally decided to spend over $700,000 to establish a mail in ballot processing center. When we have such a large amount of bonded debt and potholes all over town, did we really need to spend this money for something that doesn’t really improve an existing process?

As I write this on Oct. 16, 2021, the election is scheduled to be finally certified on Oct. 19, 2021. How is this progress? How does it improve what we had: positive voter identification, accountability, a transparent counting process, recount ability, a dual entry ballot record (paper and electronic) and near instant results. Instead, we have delayed results and we have to take it on faith that the count is valid. We should note that an unintended consequence of government’s management of the COVID crisis has been a loss of confidence in public institutions.

This process is awkward, expensive, has potential for abuse, doesn’t really protect us, is unrewarding, and the results are long delayed. Why are we doing it?

• Rick Currier and his wife have lived in Juneau since 1989. They are proudly considered “super voters” and have participated in Harbor Board, Planning Commission and City Assembly meetings on a variety of issues. 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.

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