Anchorage Assembly amends proposed election code changes ahead of vote

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 7:32 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly put forth many amendments Tuesday night to an ordinance that would make updates to the city’s election code, in response to feedback from the public and from former election observers.

The assembly is considering the proposed changes as part of an election code review process that happens every year. Some of the proposed changes, especially those that have to do with the election observer program, drew criticism from the public and some former observers. During their regular meeting Tuesday, assembly members passed a slew of amendments to the ordinance based on that feedback, but had to adjourn before they could finish.

Some of the amendments made to the proposed code changes were:

  • An amendment stating that election observers “shall not operate any mechanical or electronic device to record images or sound within designated areas where ballot processing occurs and confidential information could be easily recorded.” A previous version of the ordinance sought to keep observers from possessing any mechanical or electronic recording device in designated areas, which drew pushback from the public. This amendment, sponsored by assembly member John Weddleton, made it more specific so that devises can still be possessed, but not operated.
  • An amendment that goes on to define what a “designated area” is in the context of a municipal election.
  • An amendment that adds to the whereas section of the ordinance that the assembly supports a “vision of openness and transparency,” and expects the elections team to use the best available technology to livestream elections 24/7 for the public.
  • An amendment clarifying that write-in candidates can also register election observers with the Municipal Clerk’s Office.
  • An amendment that would give discretion to the municipal clerk when, in the process of adjudicating ballots, there are ballots that are mismarked, but it is convincingly clear how the person intended to vote. In those cases, the clerk will have the discretion to still tally that vote.
  • An amendment that would require the clerk’s office to hire an “observer liaison,” an election worker who would be the main point of contact for election observers and there to help with their registration and training, and to answer questions.

The assembly will take up any last amendments to the measure at a special meeting next Tuesday, where they are also expected to vote on it.

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