- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - When Bethel residents vote in the upcoming presidential election this fall, they will be doing so at a polling station.

The Bethel City Council voted against replacing polling stations with mail-in ballots, though some members had suggested the mail-in voting could increase voter turnout, KYUK-AM reported (https://bit.ly/1OurdSx).

Council member Chuck Herman in March argued for mail-in ballots, saying the increased convenience of voting could galvanize voter participation. Voter turnout in Bethel has remained less than 25 percent over the past four years.

“It’s just an attempt to allow those who wanted to vote but they had to pick up their kids from school, they had to work, all these myriad reasons why people can’t make it to the polls and vote. It allowed them the opportunity to vote,” Herman said at a meeting this week.

But Herman’s proposal drew criticism from council member Leif Albertson, who said Bethel’s current voting system does not disenfranchise voters. Albertson countered that in addition to not solving a problem, it could foster voting fraud and allow peer pressure to seep into the voting process.

“(Mail-in ballots) open up an opportunity for influence, for coercion that you don’t see in a ballot booth when you’re by yourself in a closed space,” Albertson said.

The council measure has been tabled until further notice.


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

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