The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly shot down a proposal to change voting in local elections from the ballot box to the mailbox, but it was clear something needs to be done to boost voter turnout. The assembly voted down an ordinance authored by Assemblyman Lance Roberts to implement vote-by-mail elections in the Fairbanks borough during its meeting Thursday night, with Roberts casting the lone “yes” vote for the measure. The move was, in part, an effort to make voting in municipal elections more convenient in the hopes of boosting voter turnout. Turnout in the last two municipal elections has been historically low at 16.7 percent last year and 14.4 percent in 2013.
“It’s really about meeting people’s needs,” he said. “I think the benefits are huge for the small amount of cost if you look at voter participation as a benefit.”
Roberts’ fellow assemblymembers were supportive of his goal, calling recent voter turnout “abysmal,” “terrible,” and an “embarrassment.” But assemblymembers shied away from the immediate switch from widespread polling places to a vote-by-mail system.