Ballot envelope review for Anchorage municipal election taking place Friday

Undated image of generic ballot envelopes from a past Anchorage Municipal Election.
Undated image of generic ballot envelopes from a past Anchorage Municipal Election.(KTUU)
Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 2:19 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As it seeks to determine which ballot envelopes should officially be rejected and which will be accepted, Anchorage’s municipal election commission will be holding a work session Friday afternoon, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the election center near Ship Creek in Anchorage.

Among the group’s obligations is a review of all pending rejected ballot envelopes, and official adoption of the election canvass report.

The commission will then make its “final decisions on challenged or preliminary rejected ballot envelopes to be accepted or rejected,” per the municipality, in a public session of canvass.

Such sessions are held for each election and are done so in accordance with Anchorage municipal code.

“It is the opportunity for citizens who have some election experience to sit back and take a look at the work that the elections team – the daily workers – did,” said Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones ahead of the work session Friday, “and make decisions about what we’ve done for the election.”

Jones added that the members of the commission itself are appointed by mayors to staggered terms over a period of time. After appointment, the individuals are then confirmed by the Anchorage Assembly.

She said the chair has been on the commission for about a decade, and that the appointment process brings “a variety of people and diverse opinions to the commission.”

There are about 2,000 ballot envelopes that have been processed “differently” and required review by humans, Jones said.

“The signature does not match, there is no signature, there is something else wrong with that ballot envelope,” she said. “For those reasons, we are reviewing all of those envelopes. We’re spending a lot of time on those envelopes to figure out what’s going on, and to count every vote that we can.”

According to Jones, a small group of voters is required to provide identification as well, for example, and without identification, the commission must decide whether or not to accept the envelope and its contents.

Envelopes sent via mail but postmarked after this year’s municipal Election Day, April 6, are recommended to be rejected as well; so too are ballots from people who registered to vote after the 30-day deadline, but the commission makes the final call.

After the work session, an official report on the ballot envelopes to be rejected and accepted will be prepared, and then – following the public session of canvass – ballot envelopes that were accepted by the commission will then be processed.

Regarding staffing for the election as a whole, Jones said that many election workers have been part of the process for a long time. She said a decision regarding intentions to specifically increase staffing for a mayoral runoff has not yet been made, but that her team is always looking for new election workers, and that the municipality works closely with the state to share workers and volunteers.

“We plan and staff the election so that we can accommodate our voters; our voters are first,” Jones said. “We have a strong group of staff that have worked with us when the municipality was poll-based, and many of those workers came into the elections center and are working in various capacities here.”

Unofficial results have been updated several times since Election Day. After official results are tallied, including reports from the municipal clerk and elections team, the assembly will gather for approval and certification of the election.

The special assembly meeting dedicated to that certification will take place on Tuesday, April 20, starting at 5 p.m. A mayoral runoff election, presuming it takes place, would happen on May 11.

If you’ve received written correspondence from the municipality regarding additional material requirements for your election ballot, including an issue with your signature or ID, you are asked to please provide that information via email or in person by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 16. If you can’t make it by 4:30 p.m. you can come to the canvass session instead and appeal to the commission.

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