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Keeping Anchorage’s vote-by-mail elections safe and secure

13 candidates compete for mayor
13 candidates compete for mayor
Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 5:39 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On April 6, Anchorage residents will elect a new mayor, several school board seats as well as vote on various propositions and bonds — and, for the fourth year in a row, they will receive their ballots in the mail.

Deputy Municipal Clerk Erika McConnell said there are numerous security measures in place to ensure that mail-in balloting is safe, secure and accurate.

On March 15, the city expects to mail out more than 200,000 ballots to Anchorage voters whose names come from a list kept by the State Division of Elections. McConnell said voters have until Sunday to update address information with the state.

One of the first security measures involves the ballot envelopes themselves. McConnell said both the outer envelope and the return envelope are printed with a nine-digit identification number and a bar code which is unique to each voter.

According to McConnell, the number can alert workers if someone tries to vote more than once.

“If this person were to go to a vote center and vote again, they would have another envelope that would have the same number on it,” she said. “And the system would kick the second one out because it would say, this number has already been returned to us. This individual has already voted.”

Another safety measure involves people who request a replacement ballot.

“I call that the dog ate my ballot request,” McConnell said.

In that case, the city will issue a new ballot with a new identification number and the original ballot will be removed from the system so it will no longer count.

Then there’s the question of signatures. Election workers examine the signatures on every ballot envelope returned to make sure they match with those on file with the state.

“Election workers who do this process are trained by a Washington state trooper who specializes in this, so they are trained in signature verification,” McConnell said. “And every signature gets looked at by two election officials.”

If questions linger about a match, voters will receive a letter alerting them to the problem as well as a way to resolve it.

McConnell said in the 2020 election, the city sent out hundreds of letters to people with questionable signatures or who forgot to sign the return envelope at all. More than 300 never responded and McConnell said their ballots didn’t count.

“It’s highly likely that some of those were not voted by the person whose name was on the envelope,” she said.

McConnell said election workers do a good job of making sure votes stay secure and that every legitimate vote is counted.

People who have questions can go to the election website for more details on the security steps that are taken or visit the city’s election center. Guided tours are being offered this week and next. People who are interested can call 907-243-VOTE to schedule an appointment.

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