The Bethel City Election is on Oct. 6, but city voters can begin voting now. City Clerk Lori Strickler said that voting before the election is only one option. Others include voting by mail and online voting. Strickler said that those wanting to vote early can do so, with public health precautions, at city hall.
“It opens at 8:30 a.m., and will remain open until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday,” said Strickler. “And on Thursdays we will have an extended opportunity for those who can’t make it before five, and we will be open until 6 p.m. on Thursday. And just in case people haven’t had an opportunity for early voting, we will host an Oct. 3 opportunity."
That opportunity will be Saturday, Oct. 3 at City Hall. If you go to city hall to vote before the election you can get both the city ballot and the REAA, or Regional Education Attendance Area, ballot. Strickler said that the city is providing as many options as possible to vote early in hopes of reducing congestion during the Oct. 6 city election.
Another change is that Bethel’s Precinct 1 voting location has been moved. Normally Precinct 1 is located at the Lower Kuskokwim School District’s office boardroom, but the city has relocated that polling place to the student clinic, which is a much smaller space.
“So, with that on election day, we’re only going to be permitting two voters in the precinct at a time. So again, especially those who are voting at Precinct 1, it is really important to try to make it to city hall in advance of election day to get your vote in, because otherwise you might have some outside lines to get in and access the poll,” said Strickler.
Bethel’s Precinct 2 is located at the Cultural Center.
The other option is to vote by mail, but to do that, voters need to request that a ballot be sent to them in the mail. Strickler said that Saturday, Sept. 26 is the deadline to apply for an “absentee by mail ballot". The request can be emailed to email@example.com, you can drop by city hall during early voting and pick up an application, or you can go online for a ballot.
“And then that ballot can be drop-boxed on the precinct location the day of the election, or mailed back to the city of Bethel as long as it’s received by Oct. 8 by 5 [p.m.] when we host our canvass board.”
The city does not supply absentee ballots for the REAA election. To vote by mail or with an absentee ballot in the REAA election, voters must apply with the Alaska Division of Elections.
The third city election option is voting online. The way it works is that people get the ballot online, print it out, vote on it, and then return it to the city electronically.
“And then we take the electronic ballot submitted by the voter and mark the ballot, and submit it to the canvass board for review. It’s a confidential ballot once it leaves the hands of the election official for the early voting site, but if somebody does choose to accept the ballot by electronic means, they are also then waiving their right to a secret ballot,” said Strickler.
For those who want to go the polls to vote in the city election on Oct. 6, Strickler said that the city has created spaces to do so safely by helping people to keep social distance, supplying masks, and providing and using disinfectants.
Strickler said that typically about 20% of Bethel’s eligible voters vote in the city election. This year there are four candidates running for three seats on the city council: Michelle DeWitt, Mayor Perry Barr, Rose “Sugar” Henderson, and Conrad “CJ” McCormick.