Citing the possibility of death and illness from the spread of COVID-19, the Juneau Assembly voted to remove the witness verification requirement of all mail-in ballots for the Oct. 6 municipal election.
In order to protect the integrity of the vote, all mail-in ballots normally require one other witness to verify the true identity of the voter. On Sept. 21, the Juneau Assembly rescinded this safeguard.
In May, Juneau moved to a mail-in-only vote for its municipal election, a move that has drawn criticism because of the known fraudulent abuses associated with widespread mail-in voting.
Concerns about the integrity of Juneau’s mail-in-only approach surfaced on Sept. 18.
The Assembly resolution claims, “the witness signature requirement may disenfranchise certain voters who are unable to socially distance or otherwise find a qualified witness as the result of the pandemic.”
Concerns about the integrity of Juneau’s mail-in-only approach surfaced on Sept. 18 when the city issued a notice that some residents may have received ballots addressed to former residents or someone who is not a member of their household. The mistake was due to inaccurate voter registration rolls, which creates the possibility for fraudulent activity.
The notice attempted to reassure residents that the integrity of the vote will be safeguarded despite doing away with witness verification.
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“Election Officials ensure that a returned ballot is voted by the correct individual through a signature verification process,” the statement says. “Election officials who adjudicate signatures are trained with techniques used to identify matches and forgeries. If two trained election officials agree that the signature doesn’t match, the voter is contacted and provided an opportunity to cure the discrepancy.”
It adds that voting twice, or using someone else’s ballot is a felony.
While Juneau ceased in-person voting due to COVID concerns, it has continued to allow restaurants to operate at 50% capacity. As of Sept. 22 Juneau has 28 active COVID cases with three people hospitalized and one resident death, which occurred when the person was out of state. The population of Juneau is just over 32,000 residents.