Despite what it says on the ballots, voters in Juneau’s municipal election do not need a witness signature for their vote to be counted.
The Juneau Assembly passed an emergency ordinance Monday waiving the requirement for the Oct. 6 by-mail election.
On every ballot envelope that arrived in registered voters’ mailboxes last week, there is a line for a witness to print and sign their name after witnessing the voter sign their own ballot.
The only requirement for witnessing a ballot is being over 18.
The Assembly voted 6 to 3 in favor of removing the requirement. Several Assembly members said they wanted to remove any possible hurdles that might prevent someone from voting.
The emergency ordinance takes effect immediately and applies only to this year’s local election. Voters must still sign their ballots in order for it to be counted.
City Clerk Beth McEwen said during the meeting that city election officials verify each voter’s signature before counting a ballot, but they have no way of verifying witness signatures.
Civil rights groups are currently suing the state for requiring witness signatures on absentee ballots in statewide elections. The groups claim the requirement places an undue burden on voters, especially since the U.S. Postal Service recently stopped letting workers act as ballot witnesses.
Early voting started Monday and runs through Oct. 6. Voters can return their ballots by mail, drop them in a dropbox at Douglas Library or Statter Harbor, or vote in person at City Hall or the Mendenhall Public Library.