A voter places a ballot in the drop box at the Mendenhall Public Library vote center on Tuesday, Oct. 5. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

A voter places a ballot in the drop box at the Mendenhall Public Library vote center on Tuesday, Oct. 5. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Opinion: Remember the good old voting days?

I remember the good old days of two years ago and before.

  • Thursday, October 7, 2021 1:30pm
  • Opinion

By Cathy Boutin

I remember the good old days of two years ago and before. Municipal candidates would make their pitches to the public via interviews, forums, walk door-to-door, do interviews on the radio and put their information in the paper. Voters would go to the numerous voting locations throughout the borough on voting day or request an absentee ballot, or go to an early voting location open many days and for many hours before the actual election day.

If we were involved in a campaign, we’d work hard on that day trying to rally our supporters via waving signs and then pile into cars to eagerly watch the results come in at City Hall. Sometimes we’d leave triumphantly and sometimes we’d go home disappointed, but we’d know the results almost immediately.

Forward ahead to this year’s and last year’s municipal election. Granted, we are in a pandemic, but the city has forged ahead with what can only be described as a disappointing election method which they propose to continue for years. Let me explain.

The city manager stated on the radio that 27,000 ballots were mailed to residents this year. Our town has around 31,000 inhabitants. Many of those people are children who are unable to vote— a rough estimate would be 20% under the age of 18. That means that thousands of ballots were mailed out incorrectly to households— to people who have moved or might never have qualified to vote. The City asks that the extra ballots be returned, but in actual fact how often does that really happen? Apparently not often if last year’s request did little to cut out the extras. So, no big deal? Well, each of those ballots costs money to print, process, and mail. Does it leave room for potential fraud? What will it cost to print thousands of extra ballots over the years? An amazing amount I’d wager.

That sum above doesn’t include the million-dollar voting center which is underway. Million you say? Well, start with $700,000 then add in $300,000 so that the building can be renovated, made secure and mail-in voting machines can be purchased and installed. Yep, the state is starting to phase out loaning their ballot counting machines, but they aren’t purchasing fancy mail-in ballot counting machines so why are we? If we purchase machines which can handle mail-in ballots we’ll not only have to renovate a building to keep the machines stable but we will be buying extra equipment to scan the envelopes and to verify signatures. That building renovation won’t be needed nor some equipment purchased if we go back to the old system of voting used until two years ago. Do you remember the old system, you know, the system that allows voting by absentee — that is requesting a ballot be mailed to your location, voting early, or voting in person on the day of the election? I know which method I prefer— the one that saves money up front and continues to save into the future. And, oh, we’d know the results the night of the election. Golly, why would we do anything else? Search me.

• Cathy Boutin is a Juneau resident. 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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