Tuesday’s election: Kodiak Island Borough ballots arrive late

The Kodiak Island Borough’s efforts to get mail-in ballots to outlying communities in time for this Tuesday’s municipal election has run into some problems.

Dorinda Kewan, Mayor of Port Lions.

Port Lion’s mayor, Dorinda Kewan, says some voters haven’t received their ballots yet.

“I’m concerned about the process they set up,” Kewan said. “I know it’s new. This has never been done that I can remember by the Kodiak Island Borough. I’m just concerned this process might have been rushed or isn’t exactly solid enough to make sure everybody gets a chance to vote.”

Kewan says other off-the road communities on Kodiak Island have reported the same problem. She says if the ballots don’t arrive in time for a Tuesday postmark, they can’t be counted.

Normally, there are polling sites in each Kodiak Island community. But to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Borough Assembly passed a resolution earlier this year to allow Ballot By Mail precincts.

The Assembly set the deadline for mailing the ballots at 15 days before the election. Alise Rice, the Borough clerk, says it’s her office’s practice to get election materials mailed way ahead of the deadline – and in Alaska, there’s good reason to do that. Even though the clerk’s office met the mail-out deadline, there were a number of unforeseeable circumstances which caused delays.

First, there was a problem with the election pamphlets, which are supposed to accompany the ballots. The clerk says even though her office approved the proofs for the pamphlet, the Anchorage company that produced them had a printer malfunction that garbled the information, so they had to be reprinted.

And then there was another big problem.

“We had some record winds occurring here,” Rice said. “I know that some of the mail has not made it out to the villages. It’s very disappointing that they’re not getting there in the way we intended.”

And yet another problem remains: What to do about ballots that aren’t received in time to vote. The clerk says the Borough attorney is reviewing possible options, but as of yet there is no fix to the problem.

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