Bethel votes to prohibit city council from enacting future mask mandates

a "VOTE HERE" sign on a door
The voting location at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center on Oct. 4. (MaryCait Dolan/KYUK)

By an extremely narrow margin in the Oct. 4 election, Bethel voters have officially voted to amend the city code to prohibit the city council from enacting future mask mandates.

The vote passed by only a 22-vote margin. That margin slimmed further, from a 26-vote margin, after 48 questioned and absentee ballots were verified last night.

This measure means that the city is prohibited from requiring people to wear masks in public places.

Patrick Snow wrote the petition to get the question on the ballot. In the same election, Snow was voted onto city council. Snow said that he was responding to people in the community who were asking for this change.

“I felt that the people were responsible to make those decisions for themselves,” Snow said.

But other residents are worried this deprives the city of an important tool for dealing with future public health emergencies.

Bethel resident John Wallace voted against the measure. He explained why outside his polling place at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center on Oct. 4.

“To not have the ability to protect, I don’t think I want to take that away from the folks who are taking the time to know what’s going on,” Wallace said.

The final election results also kept Rose “Sugar” Henderson in the lead with the most votes for city council. She got a total of 516 votes. The next highest vote getter in the city council race was Sophie Swope with 508 votes. Snow got 475 votes, and write-in candidate Henry S. Batchelor Jr. got 45 votes.

All will serve two year terms except Batchelor Jr. As the lowest vote getter, he’ll serve out the last year of Conrad “C.J.” McCormick’s term. McCormick is stepping down to run for state representative.

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