Juneau residents will soon be able to weigh in on the future of voting by mail in the city. The Juneau Assembly is considering turning a city-owned warehouse into a more permanent ballot counting facility.
On Monday night, the assembly learned that it needs about $700,000 to remodel its Thane warehouse, located at 1325 Eastaugh Way, and purchase ballot-counting equipment.
Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale said once the request for those funds is drafted, voters will have a chance to make their voices heard.
“We’re going to try to have at least two public comment periods,” she said, “so that people have an opportunity to weigh in and tell the assembly what they feel about the proposal to go permanently to vote by mail because that’s what building that voting center would do.”
Juneau implemented a temporary vote by mail system for the 2020 election due to concerns over COVID-19. Currently, that requires city officials to use an Anchorage facility for ballot-counting. That’s what will happen again in 2021, but if this new proposal doesn’t hit any snags, Juneau would have its own facility next fall.
“Timing was kind of tight,” Hale said. “We have to give the people that manufacture those machines lots of lead time so that’s why we have to be working on it like right now in order to have it in place by October of 2022.”
Hale said by having a facility here in town, she thinks Juneau’s elections would gain an added level of certainty and security.
“You know we’re the capital city and if we can do it ourselves, the cost is a little high, but I feel that it’s worth the cost,” Hale said. “I also feel that study after study has shown that vote by mail increases voter turnout and makes voting easier for voters.”
The proposal will be introduced at the Aug. 23 assembly meeting. They’ll take public comment at that meeting and at the one on Sept. 13.