Fax voting, write-in candidate changes OK'd by Assembly

Posted: Tuesday, June 05, 2001

It will be easier to vote absentee under a series of changes in the city's election code approved by Juneau Assembly members on Monday.

The Assembly unanimously repealed and re-enacted the code. The revisions incorporate changes in state law and are part of a larger city code revision project, City Clerk Laurie Sica said.

Under the changes, Juneau voters will be able to vote absentee for any reason and can have their names placed on a permanent absentee voter list to automatically receive applications for a ballot. In addition, voters will be able to vote absentee by fax.

Sica said the city is developing a fax voting system with the state's help. The city would set up a dedicated fax line for ballots; an attendant who has taken an oath as an election worker would monitor the machine. The state has allowed fax voting for several years.

A person who votes by fax agrees to a small loss of privacy, Sica said. In the future, the city could purchase equipment allowing voters to fax ballots directly into a computer, she said.

The state suggests people vote absentee by fax as a final option, said Division of Elections spokeswoman Virginia Breeze. She said the fax lines at the state can get tied up during election season, but the division wants to encourage people to vote.

"It is a convenience for voters who have no other alternative and that's the way it was designed," she said.

Assembly members also approved a change that will require write-in candidates to give the city a letter five days before the election that says they intend to serve if elected.

Assembly member Marc Wheeler objected to the change, proposing an amendment that would allow write-in candidates to file notice with the city up until election day.

"If I write in a candidate, I want them to be counted," he said.

The Assembly voted down the amendment, with Wheeler as the sole yes vote. Mayor Sally Smith said voters still will be able to vote for their candidate of choice, but the change will make it easier on election workers.

"Are you keeping track of serious candidates or are you keeping track of protest votes?" she asked.

The code changes delete references to punch-card machines that have been replaced by optical scanners. And it removes references to ballot stickers for write-in candidates. The stickers can clog the new machines.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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