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Cozzi: Election change can't happen this year


Though Haines Borough Assembly member Debra Schnabel said she is pushing to get a change in election procedures in place for the October municipal election, but clerk Julie Cozzi said such a goal is impossible.

Even if the election ordinance passes according to schedule – it is set for a first public hearing Tuesday and adoption June 25 – it could not come into effect for this election cycle, Cozzi said.

“The candidate filing period will open July 8 and close on July 26.  The ordinance cannot become effective before the Department of Justice (DOJ) preclearance and there is no way that is going to happen by July 8,” Cozzi said.

The change in election procedures would need to be reviewed and approved by the DOJ, which can take up to 90 days, Cozzi said.

The ordinance, if passed, would eliminate the current system in which candidates run against one another for designated, individual seats and replace it with a roster system where candidate names appear together on a single ballot. The change would apply to assembly and school board elections.

Schnabel said she was hoping to get the changes made in time for the October elections not because of any personal affinity for the project, but because that is a goal stated in the borough’s Strategic Plan 2012.

“I am being driven by the strategic plan that was adopted by the assembly as a whole,” Schnabel said in an interview this week.

Mayor Stephanie Scott said she would rather take the time to research the issue thoroughly and address assembly member concerns rather than rush through the process just to get it done in time for the 2013 elections.

“If it’s a good idea today, it will be a good idea next year,” Scott said.

Seats currently held by assembly members Steve Vick and Norm Smith will be up for grabs in October.

“The candidate filing (this October) will still have to be conducted as we always have: by assembly seat.  We cannot change the process the voters are accustomed to without DOJ approval,” Cozzi said.