Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Election ballot likely to change


The push to change local election procedures continues with the Haines Borough Assembly still split down the middle on whether to switch from a seat system to a roster-style ballot.

Mayor Stephanie Scott has repeatedly broken ties between the assembly members on whether to advance the ordinance which would make the change. Members Debra Schnabel, Joanne Waterman and Norm Smith have consistently voted for the change; Jerry Lapp, Dave Berry and Steve Vick have voted against.

The ordinance is set for adoption at Tuesday’s assembly meeting, and Scott said she has every intention of breaking the tie in favor of passing the law.

“The problem with this 3-3 vote is it creates the perception that something is fundamentally flawed in the proposition, but it’s not. There’s nothing flawed in it at all,” Scott said.

Schnabel pointed out to the assembly at its June 11 meeting that current code describes a roster method, and doesn’t require candidates to declare seats.

The code reads, “The names of all offices and candidates to be voted upon shall be printed on the ballot. The title of each office to be filled shall be followed by the printed names of the candidates for such office, below which shall be blank lines equal in number to the candidates to be elected to such office, upon which the voter may write the names of persons not listed on the ballot. The words ‘Vote for ___ only’ with the appropriate number replacing the blank shall be placed before the list of candidates for each office.”

The nominating petition and declaration of candidacy forms, also described in code, do not require the candidate to specify a seat. Candidates are required to declare themselves for an office, not a seat.

“What we are currently doing is not described anywhere (in code),” Schnabel said.

Schnabel and Scott presented to the Haines Borough school board June 13 on the issue, as the election procedure change would apply to that body as well. Schnabel spoke from personal experience, using an example of when she ran for borough assembly against resident Jerry Erny. Both ran for the same seat, though more than one seat was available.

“Nobody had the opportunity to elect both Debra Schnabel and Jerry Erny, even though there were probably some people who wanted both Debra Schnabel and Jerry Erny in office,” she said.

“The system we’re using now allows the candidates to affect the first restrictive choice for the voters instead of the voters being allowed to elect both candidates. They are forced to choose between two candidates for no justifiable reason,” she added.

The school board unanimously endorsed the election change ordinance.

  Scott said she has spoken with borough attorney Brooks Chandler, who said if the ordinance passes, there would be no legal issue with implementing the change for the upcoming election this October.

“We’ve talked to the attorney and he feels like we could do it this year. It still has to get clearance from the Department of Justice, but he feels like it would and things will go fine,” Scott said.

Scott said though “change is hard,” she said she believes the community will adapt well to the new system.