Mat-Su Assembly votes to get rid of voting machines, will count votes by hand indefinitely

The new ordinance comes after the borough already voted to approve a full hand recount of upcoming November election
The new ordinance comes after the borough already voted to approve a full hand recount of upcoming November election
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 7:09 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents have made it clear by speaking during the public testimony portion of recent assembly meetings that they want election voting machines out of their precincts. An ordinance sponsored by Assemblymember Ron Bernier passed Tuesday night and will do just that — requiring ballots to be counted by hand instead of run through voting machines.

Bernier’s Ordinance 22-119 would require ballots to be counted by hand only, and passed the assembly by a vote of 6-1, with only Assembly Member Stephanie Nowers voting in opposition. During discussion, members of the assembly also passed a motion to have a special meeting on Jan. 17, 2023, at 3 p.m. to discuss borough elections.

The legislation would amend Title 25 of the Mat-Su Borough Code which focuses on elections, and is being discussed at Tuesday’s regular assembly meeting.

“The legislations are a reflection of the overwhelming interest for a call for election integrity from the people that have come up and testified at the borough,” Bernier said.

The ordinance comes after the assembly already passed a resolution directing the clerk to perform a hand recount of the upcoming Nov. 8 elections. Assemblymember Stephanie Nowers — who was in favor of the resolution — thinks the borough might be getting ahead of itself by introducing the new ordinance before the recount takes place.

“The assembly, including myself, just approved doing a full hand recount for this election to double-check the machines,” Nowers stated. “I think it would be good to sit down after this election, look at how it went, and decide the best way forward for next year’s election.”

If passed, the new legislation would go into effect in 2023. Currently, the Mat-Su Borough leases 46 ImageCast Precinct voting machines each year, in addition to one central count system. According to the borough clerk, the current year-long lease of the machines ends June 30, 2023, and cost the borough $72,257.

Borough Mayor Edna DeVries indicated the move to do away with voting machines is more of a proactive approach for future elections.

“As far as I know we have not had any problems in the borough,” DeVries said. “But, the people that are sponsoring this are anticipating and don’t want to have any problems, and so that I think is what it is, is they want to be sure that their vote is counted.”

Both Member Bernier and Mayor DeVries do anticipate the ordinance to pass the assembly vote. Mayor DeVries said that she does not intend to veto it.