Borough adopts roster-style ballot
Elections for positions on the Haines Borough Assembly and school board will no longer pit candidate vs. candidate for specific seats.
Mayor Stephanie Scott broke a 3-3 tie Tuesday to establish a roster-style ballot, eliminating the current system in which candidates vie for designated, individual seats. Assembly members Debra Schnabel, Joanne Waterman and Norm Smith supported the change; Dave Berry, Steve Vick and Jerry Lapp were opposed.
“This system simply gives the person entering the poll more choice when they go to vote. That’s all it is,” Scott said.
Vick said in an interview that despite discussion surrounding the issue at several assembly meetings, he still isn’t convinced the system was broken.
“It’s changing quite a bit of the election law and I think it got introduced as a plan and it got whipped right through. I was hoping it would go on the ballot for the residents to vote on if they wanted to use this system or not, and they were never given the opportunity,” Vick said.
Lapp also remained resolute that no change was necessary, saying he had voted in Haines for 30 years using the designated-seat ballot and never saw a problem with it.
The assembly also voted – with Scott again breaking the tie – to make the change effective immediately, meaning the roster ballot will be used for the upcoming October municipal election.
Until Tuesday, Alaska municipalities were required to obtain preclearance from the Department of Justice on election procedure changes, a lengthy process that could have stymied attempts to have the change in effect by October.
However, a Tuesday decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding portions of the Voting Rights Act eliminated that requirement, borough attorney Brooks Chandler wrote in a memo to clerk Julie Cozzi.
When Schnabel proposed the amendment taking Chandler’s memo into account and making the change effective immediately, Vick balked and said he wouldn’t vote for it, as changing procedures so close to the election could trigger the perception of manipulation or attempted influence. “A lot of it may be appearance and not factual, but I think appearance is very important,” he said.
Two seats, currently belonging to Vick and Smith, will open up in October. Vick has stated he will not seek re-election. Smith has declined to reveal his intention.