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


Group seeks election changes


We the People of Haines says it wants “comprehensive election reform” in the wake of irregularities that occurred during the Oct. 1 municipal election.

Member Dana Hallett said members of the group believe more changes are necessary than simply reprogramming memory cards on voting machines so they accept “undervoted” ballots. Voting machines rejected such ballots, on which voters left sections blank, leading to confusion on election day and a citizen’s challenge of the election.

Haines Borough Assembly members rejected the challenge, saying that problems with the vote didn’t favor some candidates over others and didn’t merit holding another election. The challenge review was conducted by borough clerk Julie Cozzi, who supervises local elections, deputy clerk Michelle Webb and attorney Brooks Chandler.

Hallett said he wants annual training for poll workers using an “approved curriculum,” “so all voters are getting the same message.”

The group also is concerned about the American Bald Eagle Foundation as a voting site. “Some people are uncomfortable going to vote at the eagle foundation because they feel it’s got too much of a one-sided political viewpoint that permeates that place.”

Hallett said he personally had no problem with the foundation. “But it’s not a public building. It’s not a school or a fire station.”

Another concern about the borough’s handling of the election included that absentee voters didn’t get the same instructions as ones who showed up at the polls, Hallett said. “The way the (assembly) determined the 40 percent (of votes needed to avoid a runoff) wasn’t known until after absentee votes were cast… When there are changes in election procedures, the time to inform voters is before the election, so people understand what they need to do before they cast their ballots.”

Investigation of challenged elections should be conducted by “a committee of three respected, neutral persons,” Hallett said via email. It’s a conflict for the person coordinating the election to also coordinate the investigation, he said.

The group’s recommendations include that ballots be hand counted. “If scanning machines are used, memory cards shall be programmed to reject the following ballots: overvotes, blank ballots and non-processed ballots… There should be no rejection of under-voted ballots,” according to a list of group concerns Hallett emailed.

Hallett said his group has been directed by Mayor Stephanie Scott to look at changes in borough code regarding elections. Hallett said his group would be attending the Nov. 12 Haines Borough Assembly meeting to pursue such changes.