Next year’s municipal election to see mail-in ballots only
On Election Day, there are few things 90-year-old Barbara Bowerman enjoys more than seeing her neighbors get out to vote.
She’s been an election worker for the Municipality of Anchorage for nearly 35 years, swapping stories, sharing laughs and following procedure.
“The first time I did this, we were counting paper ballots,” Bowerman said. “It has changed a lot since then.”
Bowerman is one of more than 700 election workers hired by the municipality each election to man 122 precincts around Anchorage, but she is about to be out of a job. Starting next year, all municipal elections will transition to mail-in ballots only.
“It’s not as personable and you’re not going to get the same reaction from the public,” Anchorage voter Lisa Nason said.
Election officials say the reason for the switch is a history of faulty ballot equipment and low voter turnout.
“I think vote-by-mail is important because it allows voters to have confidence in their votes because they’ll have time to study the issues,” said Deputy Clerk of Elections Amanda Moser. “Our ballots have long propositions that are very complicated. It gives the voters that additional time.”
The transition to mail-in-only voting is something the municipality has been working on for several years. The expensive startup funding for the new system was appropriated by the Assembly back in 2015.
The switch only applies to municipal elections. State and federal elections will continue to use local precincts and poll workers.
Bowerman says she will miss the friends she’s made as an election worker over the decades, but says the change could be just what Anchorage needs.
“I’ll be glad to see a mail-in ballot,” Bowerman said. “In the other states where they have mail in ballots the number of people who vote have greatly increased.”
The average voter turnout in a municipal election is about 20 percent, according to the municipal clerk’s office. Staff expect that number to nearly double with the new system in place.
But for election workers like Bowerman, this is the end of a tradition. No more directing neighbors to the ballot box, instead hoping next year they find their way to their mailbox.
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