Last year, Juneau moved to a mail-in-only voting process for municipal elections, a move that drew some criticism because of the known fraudulent abuses associated with widespread mail-in voting. Despite these concerns the recent Oct. 5 election, in which residents voted for mayor, three school board seats and two assembly members, was also conducted as mail-in only.
One consequence of this approach is that voters won’t know the preliminary results of the election until Oct. 8, three days after the election. Compounding the problem is the fact that Juneau is not equipped to count its own ballots, and has contracted with the Municipality of Anchorage to do the tabulation. This is the same approach used last May.
In order to get ballots to Anchorage, they must first arrive at the Juneau vote centers or drop boxes. They are then reviewed and transported to Anchorage for processing on Oct. 7.
According to an Oct. 6 notice from the city, an election team will work with Anchorage officials to review ballots. Any voter whose ballot envelope is deemed “deficient” for any reason (such as lack of voter signature or personal identifier) will be sent a “Cure Letter” and they must follow the instructions on the cure letter prior to October 19.
Ballots received before October 19, but postmarked on or before October 5, will be sorted, reviewed, verified or sent cure letters, and ultimately tabulated. Those votes will be added to final results for certification.
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On Oct. 8, a “preliminary tally of all ballot return envelopes received through mail, at Juneau Vote Centers, and in the Secure Ballot Drop Boxes will be published on the Juneau website as “unofficial results.” Review work will continue on mailed ballots, and additional “unofficial results” will be posted and updated online as they become available.
The election could be certified by Oct. 19, but Juneau code allows the Canvas Review Board to continue working for up to three days. This means it is possible the certification of election results may take longer if the board works beyond October 19.
Last month, the Juneau Assembly appropriated $700,000 to fund its own ballot processing center which is expected to be operational next year.