Win Gruening: Vote-by-mail voter’s remorse, buyer’s remorse, or perhaps both



A curious thing happened leading up to the recent Juneau vote-by-mail municipal election. City Clerk Beth McEwen reported that many people who mailed in a ballot contacted the city wanting to change their vote. She didn’t speculate on the cause, but a KTOO news story attributed this to late-breaking developments after ballots were sent to voters. 

I think it’s likely that this explains the anomaly and underscores one of the unintended consequences of mail-in voting.

Under Juneau’s new municipal vote-by-mail system, ballots were sent to 27,684 registered Juneau voters on Sept. 14. Assuming voters returned ballots as early as they did in 2020, about 3,000 ballots would have been mailed back in the first week or so. This means many voters submitted their ballot a full two weeks early, well ahead of the official “election day” deadline of October 5.

Yet, during that same week, Will Muldoon launched a write-in campaign for school board. His candidacy was heavily supported as evidenced by a well-orchestrated letters-to-the-editor campaign.

Additionally, several news stories surfaced about two other school board candidates – both of whom had protective orders filed against them and one whose record included significant tax liens and foreclosures. 

The 3,000 plus voters who had already voted didn’t have the benefit of this vital information. Some regretted their choices and wanted a do-over. Voters, however, are not allowed to change their ballot once submitted. 

Paul Gronke , director of the Early Voting Information Center, believes early voting is not a panacea. If used, he says, “The period for casting ballots should not be too long.” Why? Campaigns don’t really ramp up until the final two weeks and voters rarely pay serious attention until the days just  prior to the election. 

With a “rolling election” that began three weeks early, it’s important to ask if the process is fair to the candidates, fair to the electorate, or actually beneficial to democracy.

There are other reasons to question the wisdom of vote-by-mail.

Voter fraud is a serious subject and, while it has been used too often to justify electoral losses in other states (by both political parties), it should not be dismissed out of hand. There is little documented election fraud in this country, but the irregularities that do exist are often associated with unsolicited mail-in ballots.

In Juneau this year, anecdotal evidence suggests numerous voters received multiple ballots for other people. It’s clear that voter rolls are full of names of people who have moved or are deceased.

Even with an uptick in voter turnout, fewer than half of Juneau’s vote-by-mail ballots will be returned in any election year. That leaves over 14,000 ballots floating around Juneau post office lobbies and waste baskets and residential garbage cans. 

Presumably, voter verification processes are in place. But after Alaska’s Online Voter Registration System was hacked last December, allowing personal information for 100,000 voters to be exposed, how difficult would it be to defeat that system?

At a time when elections can be decided by a few votes and election integrity is critical, why tinker with our voting procedures? Especially when doing so makes it easier to send in fraudulent ballots or for special interests to “harvest ballots,” thereby giving voters even less reason to trust the results.

By the city’s own estimates, the first-year costs for vote-by-mail (including new equipment and renovation costs) could approach $1 million. The ongoing operational costs of conducting the election could exceed $200,000 per year, triple the cost of a conventional election where voters can choose to vote in person or request an absentee ballot.

When Juneau’s elected leaders decreed that local elections would forevermore be conducted via “vote by mail” instead of in-person at local precinct locations, the electorate was denied a complete informed discussion. Copycatting the vote-by-mail plan adopted in Anchorage was easier than engaging the public in a full debate that evaluated the merits and pitfalls of vote-by-mail.

The Juneau Assembly, it seems, has no problem busting the budget once more on a questionable expenditure. Now, whether Juneau’s taxpayers want it or not, they will be stuck with the extra costs of vote-by-mail. 

After retiring as the senior vice president in charge of business banking for Key Bank in Alaska, Win Gruening began writing op-eds for local and statewide media. He was born and raised in Juneau and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970. He is involved in various local and statewide organizations and currently serves on the board of the Alaska Policy Forum.

Read: Ranked choice voting is not that simple

Read: Population, population, population

Read: What will it take to get reliable ferry service?


  1. Nobody needed to prove to me, or show me any evidence, or even make an argument, that voting by mail is simply a BAD idea all around. Not only is it open to abuse and error by having to go, twice, through the postal system, it is simply open to MUCH more abuse than voting in-person is or could ever be, because of the greater level of opaque intermediation between sending in one’s ballot and having it finally tallied. Voting by mail just seems like the perfect method that sociopaths would want in order for to allow them to be able to manipulate and skew elections, in order to keep themselves (and their allies) in power. This in addition to its destruction of the centuries-old tradition, and bedrock principle, of the total privacy of one’s ballot; under mail-in voting, there is no privacy inherent in one’s vote.
    I will point out that Anchorage NEVER had such an UNrepresentative, and radically extremist and statist, municipal ass-embly as it has today until after the very first mail-in municipal election.

  2. Win, the simple solution is as follows: 1) Return to paper ballots for all Alaska Elections, 2) All absentee voting eligibility for military not in Alaska and require mandatory hardship verification for all others, 3) Abolish Division of Elections and all elections verified, accounted and audited through out of state CPA firms rotated every election season.

    But I live with unicorns and rainbows in my backyard where only simple solutions are allowed. Anything else is a trespass and summarily shot.

  3. Conservatives may vote early. Dems like to change voting parameters as close to the day of the vote thus casting a greater volume of votes to be questioned and possibly cured while other “adjustings” can illegally be maneuvered and macchinations to surreptitiously count votes in elongated, late into the nights, while a huge deal is made about the grind of daily work and members of civil society jocularly deliver flowers during counting of election which adds nuance, and inappropriate circuses and attendant distrust of an innately dishonest system. Please vote (for all the good it does you). Our “winner(s)” gratefully appreciates the manufactured “consents”.

  4. There is only one reason to have either vote by mail or early voting, and that is to allow organized groups such as unions and leftist interest groups to harvest votes and, if they think necessary, to cast fraudulent ballots and steal elections.

    • Just your biased opinion Art. Many love the ease that comes with mail-in voting. We’ve had it for years with absentee voting without issues IMO.
      You don’t like it-tough noogies.

      • Bill, the road to Hell is not only paved with (supposed) good intentions, nowadays it is being paved much more with so-called “convenience”.
        I bet you routinely use Alexa at home, as well.

      • That is just stupid lefty cant; universal mail ballots have noting in common with any reasonable absentee voting scheme. There are plenty of Democrat constituents you can peddle your propaganda to; they’re ignorant enough to believe anything.

        The people who really love the ease that comes with universal mail-in are they crews of lefty punk vote harvesters that the communists, excuse me, Democrats bring in and the union stewards and such that work the union’s mailing lists and make sure all the alzheimer’s patients get their vote in; they’re glad to help them cast their vote of course.

  5. This was a scam from the start. Not only does Juneau have vote by mail, they have their own city-owned building out of town to tabulate the votes. I don’t even know who is, or isn’t, allowed in this secure building (purchased for $750K not including renovations). Our voting is done in tandem with Anchorage via the computer system. The days of honest elections in Juneau are over. Want to voice a complaint with the city council? Forget it, all meetings are secret or held on Zoom. They want Juneau to be like Seattle, what a wonderful aspiration.

  6. Vote by mail just needs to go away. I would be fine with extending the voting in person time line to several days, or maybe even a week perhaps, but all voters must present a valid AK identification card.

  7. What could possibly go wrong?

    Just declare martial law and stop the charade. It’s what they want anyway.

  8. Exactly Win. This happened to us when we lived in Oregon. We voted using the mail in ballot early & things changed involving candidates we selected. I’m all for maybe 3-4 days of early voting but as much as possible in person as well for the reasons you itemize.

  9. Most everyone I spoke with, loved the new system Win. I even managed to write in Will Muldoon’s name on my ballot. No big deal really.

  10. This is a red herring argument. Vote-by-mail is the whipping child of those who falsely believe voter fraud is widespread but hidden. It is not. There are multiple hurdles for votes-by-mail to jump before they are counted.
    The important lesson here is to be sure you vote for whom you want to win, and then don’t try to reel it back if you change your mind. It won’t work in the voting booth or with mail-in. I generally vote in person, and if I were to ask for my ballot back just after I stuffed it in the box because I changed my mind, I’d be interested to find out what the reaction would be from the voting judge.

    • Homo, there will always be a certain amount of things that must be done in person. Examples: driver’s license test, professional license tests, dental work, house construction, surgeries, garbage pickup, police responses, etc, etc, etc…. Certainly, voting is important enough to be included in this category of unique items that must be done personally.

    • “A 2016 study of Colorado from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that costs decreased an average of 40% in five election administration categories after implementing vote-by-mail.”
      There are costs associated with running traditional polling places-you going to argue with Colorado? Heheh!

  11. I am a cost engineer by profession; but, this arithmetic is 4th-grade level.

    One person can count by hand 4-ballots per minute. 4/minute x 60mins = 240 ballots per hour. 8800-ballots/240/hr = 36-manhours. 36mhrs/4-man crew = 9 crew-hrs. Meaning…. we could have preliminary results on election night just like we always did. Imagine that; and without computers or machines.

    Costs: 36 manhours x $70/mhr = $2520. Supervision $1000. Sorting/Prep $2500.
    Total $6020. I’m surely missing something but it would be hard to imagine anything more cost efficient, reliable and trustworthy than plain old hand counting.

    • Wayne is on to something here. I ran some numbers assuming three person counting crew and being able to get through 3 ballots a minute. Assuming a 7 hour work day and starting to count when the ballots are received and maybe even adding a second three person crew on election day and day before, the cost for paying humans to hand-count the ballots is under $10,000. The assumption here is paying the counting crew $30/hr., a reasonable assumption given that likely individuals who would agree to do this work are retired or senior citizens who are already engaged in election work or interested in helping out for a bit of side money.
      The cost of acquiring the optical reading equipment is simply not justified. It is expensive, only used infrequently and will invariably become obsolete.
      But that will not stop the City and Borough of Juneau from spending big to buy equipment that isn’t needed, not to forget the hundreds of thousands to refurbish the old warehouse built in an avalanche zone to store the optical readers. It’s all another silly expenditure of funds that is a reminder that we really do get what we deserve when we elect officials who have no experience dealing with reality and are content to spend, spend, spend like there is an unlimited source of loot to divvy up.

  12. We experienced issues with mail in ballots when LeDoux’s contractor obtained over two dozen votes from two trailer houses. A more sophisticated contractor with access to voter roles could be a little more subtle.

  13. Well-founded concerns, Win. Don’t forget ballot harvesting, arguably a personal favorite of unions and the radical Left.
    May we recommend sharing the issues with Bryan Wilson, U.S. Attorney for Alaska.
    Request an investigative grand jury be empaneled to decide whether your issues occurred, or are occurring, as indictable offenses under federal election law.
    The U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire wrote a federal and state election fraud checklist: “Federal Election Fraud Fact Sheet”, found at
    The U.S. Attorney for Alaska is Bryan Wilson. The Juneau office address is 709 West 9th Street, Room 937, Juneau, Alaska 99802, telephone: (907) 796-0400, fax Line: (907) 796-0409.

  14. One individual = One Vote, in person, with ID to prove who the individual/voter is, equals one vote…period…

    If one cannot vote in person within these confines, such as overseas Military individuals, or those that truly cannot attend in person voting, such as disability, or some other compelling reason as an individual, shall submit said reason, within acceptable reasoning, along with identifiable information of the individual themselves within sufficient time, say 30 days before the election so as to afford them the ability to participate within the election process so that their votes are counted

    Within addition, allow an additional day to vote within person, and have said two days occur over a weekend, with all voting locations being open 24 hours each day, which would cover a vast, vast majority of potential voters timeframe within individual time allowance…upwards of 95% availability, I would imagine…

    Within this process, I honestly and truly believe that the results of ANY election held under these circumstances would have demonstrable and nearly complete results within 24-48 hours from the closing time of ANY said election…

    Within this situation, one person, one vote, shall remain steadfast, and accurate…

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