Anchorage Assembly certifies mayoral runoff election results

Ballots from the Anchorage mayoral runoff election.
Ballots from the Anchorage mayoral runoff election.(Lauren Maxwell/KTUU)
Published: May. 25, 2021 at 7:45 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 8:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The results of Anchorage’s mayoral runoff election, which Mayor-elect Dave Bronson won, have been certified.

Members of the Anchorage Assembly voted unanimously to certify the results at their Tuesday meeting, to a round of cheers from the audience gathered at the assembly chambers in the Loussac Library.

In certifying the election results, the assembly accepted the Anchorage Election Commission’s report that the election was carried out in a legal manner, and that no illegal election practices sufficient to change its outcome took place.

That final report shows more than 90,800 ballots were cast in the runoff election, which Deputy Clerk Erika McConnell said “shattered” the record for the most ballots cast in a city election. The last record was set in 2018 when there was a turnout of 36.31%. Voter turnout in the runoff was 38.36%, McConnell said.

“We thank the voters, the candidates, the campaigns, our fabulous election officials, municipal employees and volunteers who made the May 11 election such a success,” she said.

The election report shows that Bronson won the election by 1,193 votes. He garnered 50.66% of the vote, while candidate Forrest Dunbar, a member of the Anchorage Assembly, got 49.34%.

The election report shows that out of 2,414 ballot envelopes that were initially challenged, 1,230 of them were successfully cured. A total of 1,691 ballots ended up being rejected by the election commission. Common reasons for ballots being rejected are a late post mark or a non-matching signature.

The report shows that the majority of ballot envelopes in the May runoff election were submitted through the city’s secure drop boxes — about 61% of them. Close to 35% of ballot envelopes were mailed through the United States Postal Service and 4% were from in-person voting centers in Anchorage.

Bronson is set to be sworn in as mayor on July 1. He held a press conference Monday to announce his transition team and early plans for taking office.

Before the assembly voted to certify the election, assembly members Christopher Constant, John Weddleton and Dunbar made brief comments, thanking election officials for their work.

“I think it’s a testament to the security and the efficacy of the vote by mail system,” Dunbar said of the election results.

He stopped speaking as several people in the audience made noises of protest, and addressed them.

“Well, I think you want us to certify this election,” he said. “I think we all agree this election was legitimate. And part of our Democracy is accepting the results of the election regardless of who wins. And if the results had been reversed, and, you know, a slight 1,200 votes the other way, I hope that you would accept it in the same way.”

The Anchorage Municipal Clerk’s report details several challenges made to election officials during the runoff, and how they were handled. The report noted that, up to now, campaigns and candidates have been responsible for training election observers, and that observers are required to review the city’s Observer Manual.

“Even so, it was apparent from the behavior and questions, detailed below, that a number of observers had not been trained by their campaign, many had not read the manual, and many did not have any understanding of the processes at the Election Center,” the report states.

Due to what the report described as a lack of understanding of the manual, the municipal elections team will no longer allow candidates and campaigns to conduct the observer training. The elections team will conduct that training itself in the future, according to the report.

The report also noted instances of observers being disruptive or impolite to election officials while they worked. According to the report, one election observer had to be asked not to touch the cage on the election floor that contains ballots. That same observer approached a different election worker later that day, and, according to the report, that election worker reported that he said something to the effect that he “would be back to harass her more tomorrow.”

That observer was banned from the election center, according to the report. The report goes on to detail that the primary contact for the campaign the observer belonged to “downplayed” the behavior and asked the Anchorage Municipal Clerk what authority they had to remove the observer.

“The Clerk responded that the Municipality has a duty to protect Municipal employees, including Election Officials, from harassment and bullying, from not only other employees, but also from contractors, vendors, and public,” the report states. “The campaign primary contact person responded with words to the effect that, ‘You’ll be hearing from our lawyer.’”

The full elections report can be read on the assembly’s website. McConnell said during Tuesday’s meeting that it will also be posted to the city’s election web page.

The assembly also voted Tuesday to certify the results of two recounts for Anchorage School Board seats B and E. The results of those recounts, which took place in late April, were supposed to be certified earlier this month. Certification was postponed to the assembly’s Tuesday meeting because the election commission had failed to adopt its report of those recounts when it was originally scheduled to.

Editors Note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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