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


Voters urged to follow instructions on ballot


Haines Borough officials are urging residents to carefully follow ballot directions when casting their votes Tuesday.

Voters will elect two assembly members and three school board members in Tuesday’s election. They’ll also decide on a proposed change to the borough charter limiting corporate personhood.

  Assembly candidates include George Campbell and write-in candidates Mario Benassi and Diana Lapham. School board candidates include Sarah Swinton, Ardy Miller, Scott Doddridge, Lisa Schwartz and write-in candidate Kim Larson.

  An ongoing debate between Mayor Stephanie Scott and assembly member Debra Schnabel ended Tuesday when the assembly agreed to count the number of votes – not number of voters – when calculating the percent of the vote a single candidate needs to receive to be seated.

That means when people step into the voting booth Tuesday, if they vote for fewer than two assembly candidates – or fewer than three school board candidates – their vote will have less influence than those who follow the rules.

The whole complicated mathematical discussion started when the assembly changed from a seat system to a roster-style ballot in June, forcing them to reconsider a rule in the charter requiring candidates to receive at least 40 percent of the vote to be seated.

Schnabel wanted to calculate 40 percent using the number of ballots returned. Scott wanted to calculate 40 percent using the number of votes cast. The two systems net the same result only if each voter in the assembly election votes for two candidates. A voter who only votes for one candidate in the assembly election loses half the weight of his ballot for use determining the 40 percent needed to get elected.

“The Mayor has a very strong argument about voting being a positive action,” Schnabel said in an interview Tuesday. “By her interpretation of voting, you actually have an X on the ballot and say, ‘I vote for this person.’ If you do not have an X, even though you are a voter at the poll, it’s not counted. I had a perspective that if a person shows up at the polls and takes a ballot and goes into the voter box but chooses not to vote for an assembly member, I can count that legitimately in my mind as a ‘No’ vote.”

“That’s kind of the little murky land that this argument lives in,” she added.

Schnabel ultimately conceded to Scott, who had threatened to exercise her veto if she didn’t get her way, for the sake of expediency.

Ballots with more than the directed number of candidates marked will be thrown out.

Schnabel said she will introduce a charter amendment to abolish the 40 percent rule after this year’s election.

“Other communities who use the roster method don’t have a 40 percent rule. It’s just whoever gets the most number of votes wins, gets seated,” she said.

  Clerk Julie Cozzi put to rest a rumor Tuesday and said if a person marks the bubble for candidate Joe Smith and also marks the write-in bubble and writes in Joe Smith, that will only be counted as one vote for Joe Smith, not two.

  KHNS and the Chilkat Valley News will host an assembly and school board candidate forum 7 p.m. Thursday in the Haines High School open area.

  Absentee, in-person voting is ongoing at the borough office through Sept. 30. Applications for by-mail, absentee voting are due at the office by Friday.

  Absentee, by-mail ballots must be postmarked no later than Oct. 1 and be received at the borough office by Oct. 8.