Anchorage Assembly set to consider new election code changes

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 7:36 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly is set to consider a handful of changes to the city’s election code, but this came with pushback from Mayor Dave Bronson Tuesday night.

“Tonight the assembly is proposing significant alterations to how our local elections are conducted,” Bronson said during Tuesday’s regular assembly meeting. “Trust in the process of our elections is vital to the success of a republican form of government. These changes significantly reduce transparency of the election process.”

Changes to the election code are proposed annually. Each year, the municipal clerk’s election team conducts a review of Title 28, which is the section of city code relating to municipal elections, and the team proposes changes to help streamline administration of municipal elections and to improve efficiency. The changes are then analyzed by the Anchorage Election Commission, the Assembly Ethics and Elections Committee, and assembly counsel.

The assembly will consider an ordinance that proposes a number of changes meant to “assist voters and make election processing more efficient,” according to a press release from the city, including:

  • Clarifying language to address voter confusion;
  • Adding a fourth state condition code to the list of voters who are not automatically mailed a ballot package, saving municipal tax dollars;
  • Setting the same standards for a voter assistant as for a special needs representative;
  • Revising and clarifying elements of the observer program;
  • Reorganizing certain sections for clarity and removing redundant language;
  • Making the rules for counting write-in votes more clear and specific.

The assembly is scheduled to hear from residents about the proposed changes in two public hearings before they discuss the ordinance and vote on it. Bronson said at Tuesday night’s assembly meeting the revisions to the observer program will be restricting if passed.

“A close examination of these proposed changes shows that the public and candidates ability to observe the election process will be significantly restricted,” Bronson said. “I encourage the assembly to reconsider these changes. We must advance transparency in our electoral system not reduce it.”

Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance responded, saying that many aspects of the way people can observe the election process will remain the same.

“Regarding the observer program, the ordinance does not change the number of observers allowed or the times when observers are authorized to observe election activities,” she said during the meeting. “Nor does the proposed ordinance change the requirement for observer training, the reasons why an observer may be asked to leave an election location.”

The first public hearing was scheduled for Tuesday night but did not happen, and is rescheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 14. The second hearing is still scheduled for the next regular Anchorage Assembly meeting on Dec. 21.

Read a draft of the full ordinance here.

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