The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is considering whether or not it should continue mailing borough voters informational pamphlets ahead of elections. Legislation that would write that requirement out of code was given the initial green light by assembly members during their Tuesday meeting.
The ordinance, if approved, would remove from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Code of Ordinances rules requiring that the borough mail to borough box holders an informational voter pamphlet.
Additionally, the legislation would no longer require the borough to seek “pro” and “con” statements on ballot propositions for publication in that pamphlet.
Per a Dec. 1 memo from Acting Borough Clerk Michele Turner, mailing a borough to every box holder in the Kenai Peninsula Borough costs about $30,000 each regular election.
“The abandoned informational brochures found at local post offices indicate that this is not a resource that everyone finds helpful,” Turner wrote.
Providing voter pamphlets on demand and directing voters to an online version of the pamphlet, the memo says, will allow the borough to take a more “targeted approach.”
The ordinance, sponsored by Assembly President Brent Johnson and Vice President Tyson Cox, comes from a conversation between them and former Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship, Cox said during a Tuesday meeting of the Assembly Policies and Procedures Committee.
Instead of being sent a pamphlet, borough voters would be mailed a post card containing information about how to access an online version of the voter pamphlet under the legislation. Physical copies of the pamphlet would be made available at the borough building in Soldotna, as well at other municipal buildings throughout the borough.
Assembly member Richard Derkevorkian said during Tuesday’s committee meeting that providing voters with a physical copy of the pamphlet ensures that people without internet access can still know about election candidates and issues.
“I think the election pamphlets provide a ton of information to people that don’t have access to the internet,” Derkevorkian said.
The assembly heard Tuesday public testimony from multiple who voiced their support for the borough’s voter pamphlet.
Homer resident Donna Aderhold, who also sits on the Homer City Council, testified in support of continuing to send hard copies to borough voters. If the assembly ultimately votes to do away with sending pamphlets, Aderhold said she hopes to see hard copies distributed in more locations.
“I understand the reasoning behind this ordinance but it really kind of bums me out,” Aderhold said. “I find the election brochure to be so helpful in my understanding of who the candidates are in the borough and in the cities, and I’m one of those weird people who reads the darn thing cover to cover … I can’t believe people throw it away.”
The same legislation would also eliminate the need for the Kenai Peninsula Borough to solicit statements in support of and in opposition to borough ballot propositions.
Cox cited Tuesday a lack of statement standards in describing why the requirement should be removed.
“I don’t know if people realize it, but the only requirement for the pro and con statement is there aren’t any swear words,” Cox said. “If you’re the first person to come in there and say I want to do a pro statement or a con statement for this, it doesn’t have to be factual (and) there doesn’t have to be any truth to it. It just can’t have swear words.”
Further, the clerk’s office said it can be challenging to comply with that section of code.
“The administration of this code provision has proven to be difficult and an unnecessary point of contention in the public process,” Turner’s memo says.
The assembly voted Tuesday to introduce the legislation. It will be up for a public hearings and final vote by assembly members during the assembly’s Jan. 3 meeting.
Tuesday’s meeting of the Assembly Policies and Procedures Committee can be streamed on the borough website at kpb.legistar.com.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.