Beginning in August, all Sitkans could find themselves voting in the same place. That’s because of a plan to consolidate the city’s voting precincts.
Right now, Sitkans vote in four locations: the public safety academy, Centennial Hall, the Methodist church and Grace Harbor Church.
“In Sitka it seemed like it was somewhat redundant when you had a precinct within a mile and a half to two miles from another precinct,” said Municipal Clerk Colleen Ingman.
Ingman proposed consolidating the precincts in connection with the legislative redistricting process Alaska’s going through right now. Under the plan, everyone would vote at two precincts, both of which would be located at Centennial Hall.
“I picked Centennial Hall for a number of reasons: Because it had the capacity, it had the parking, it had the accessibility, it had the restrooms, and it was centrally located,” she said. “And it is within seven miles of every resident in Sitka, whether they live on an island or whether they live at the very end of either road.”
Ingman says the primary reason for wanting to consolidate the precincts is because of accessibility. The city has received complaints from people who are disabled of trouble navigating parking lots or doors at every location except Centennial Hall.
Still, the plan has drawn concern from district Democratic Party chairman Keith Nyitray. He says he’s been assured that there will be the same number of voting booths and poll workers as there would with four precincts.
“But there’s an issue of parking, there’s an issue when it comes time to vote for a general primary in August,” Nyitray said. “The cruise ships are still here using Centennial Building. I’m more afraid of voter disenfranchisement for many reasons.”
Local Republican Party leaders said they hadn’t heard much about the plans. This year’s primary election is August 28th. One ship is scheduled to stop in Sitka that day – the 382-passenger Silver Shadow.
Ingman requested the change about a year ago, in a letter to the state Division of Elections. She says part of the process will be public notification about the changes in the near future. That will include signs posted at all former precincts, redirecting voters to Centennial Hall.
Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai says the new precincts are not a done deal. There are still some administrative steps before they’re finalized, including a 30-day public comment period still to be announced.