- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2016

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - The city of Bethel is looking into replacing going to the polls with voting by mail as a way to increase voter turnout, which has remained less than 25 percent over the past four years.

Mail-in ballots could help make voting more popular, Councilman Chuck Herman said.

Herman, who introduced the proposal Tuesday, said sending ballots a month before the election would give voters time to research key issues and could eliminate costs associated with running polling stations, KYUK-AM reported (https://bit.ly/1XgJ9oh ).

But Herman’s proposal drew criticism from council member Leif Albertson, who said Bethel’s current voting system does not disenfranchise voters.

Mayor Rick Robb also spoke out against the measure, saying the city already has a process that allows residents to vote early in addition to voting at the polls. He argued against changing a system that he personally likes.

“I personally enjoy the great American tradition of going to the polls on Tuesday’s,” Robb said. “I personally think it’s one of the great benefits of democracy, and by going to the polls, it gives interested people the opportunity to go and demonstrate their democratic rights.”

While some people may enjoy voting at the polls, Herman said, the issue is that most people are not voting at all and allowing residents to vote by mail could help change that.

“I think this would go a long way towards getting more involvement from our community, and I think with more community involvement we have more community by-in; we have better governance; we have better understanding of governance; and I think we’ll have a better local government and community,” Herman said.

The City Council voted to have City Clerk Lori Strickler conduct further research on the matter and present her findings in May.


Information from: KYUK-AM, https://www.kyuk.org

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