Brennan: Mail-in balloting stinks
By Tom Brennan |
We are probably stuck with mail-in balloting for Anchorage’s municipal elections now, but I still think the system stinks.
We are presumably going to stick with the system since it increased turnout. This year, almost 79,000 voters “turned out” for the election compared to 71,000 in 2012.
I put quotes around the words “turned out” because the voters didn’t turn out at all. They simply filled out their ballots and either mailed them in or dropped them off in a box somewhere. And that is the problem with the system. It eliminates one of the great traditions of democracy in America, the shared experience of going to the polls on Election Day and filling out your ballot in the secrecy of a voting booth. Then most people attach an “I Have Voted” sticker somewhere on their clothing and leave the polling place with the feeling of having fulfilled a civic duty.
The “election” dragged on for about two weeks. And to make matters infinitely worse, city officials gave out lists of who had already voted and who had not so political groups could contact those who agree with their positions and harangue them into filling out their ballots and getting them into the mail before the deadline.
Having election officials tell anyone whether you have voted seems a violation of the secrecy of the ballot box. That information, if it is to be given out at all, should be held tight until voting is closed. Not voting in an election is a choice and municipal officials should respect that choice and not be playing tattle-tale by revealing who has and who has not sent in their ballots.
The election itself turned out fairly well. I’m not a big fan of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz — he’s a little too liberal for me — but he hasn’t done a bad job and the city should survive another three years with him at the helm. I would have preferred to see Rebecca Logan take the mayor’s job but she was something of a long-shot candidate, a political unknown whose few flaws came to the surface in the campaign and probably doomed what chance she did have to win.
Logan is general manager of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, a most responsible job working for a notable cadre of leaders at companies providing support to the oil industry here. What surfaced during the campaign was the fact that she was arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence and several times between 2006 and 2008 had her wages garnished for non-payment of debt when she and her husband were operating three Anchorage restaurants. The restaurants were O’Brady’s Burgers and Brew, Harry’s Restaurant and The Perfect Cup. For the DUI offense Logan was required to wear an ankle monitor for five days.
It’s a shame those things came out when they did, but when you run for office that represents the kind of scrutiny you get — and it hurt her chances. Since Logan hadn’t previously been in the public eye, those few items gave many people the only impression they had of her and dimmed her chances. But, as Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman said of her, Rebecca Logan would have made “a great mayor.” Let’s hope she stays in the public arena and runs again for public office.
The bathroom measure gave a few of our less tolerant religious leaders the chance to argue against allowing transgender people to use the bathroom and changing facilities of the sex they identify themselves with. The good news is the measure failed and everybody will have a place to pee.
I have considerable reservations about the merger of Anchorage’s Municipal Light & Power utility with Chugach Electric. Its advocates argued that the merger would allow cost-saving elimination of duplication but since there will be no layoffs and employees of both utilities have virtually life-time guarantees of jobs, it’s difficult to see where the savings will come. Eliminating duplicate facilities may save some money but will have the disadvantage of eliminating much-needed backup.
So for election aficionados, it’s on to the state election this fall. Among other offices, we will be deciding who will fill the governor’s job for the next four years. Tally ho!