Assembly report details recommended changes following election interference investigation
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A report released late Friday by the Anchorage Assembly details the findings of an inquiry that came after covert changes made to election code during the processing of results in the April 2023 municipal elections.
The changes to the policy were made without the knowledge of many who work in City Hall, as well as the Assembly. The updated policy was not, however, accessible by the public.
Findings listed in the report indicate “the public may be inadequately protected from the possibility of municipal resources being used to interfere with an election” and recommends the Assembly make misuse of municipal resources for political gain a misdemeanor offense.
Also recommended is the revision of election complaint forms to include more specific information for reporting possible infractions of election code, as well as the requested resolution.
Concerns about the Election Commission’s hearing of complaints may lead to clarifications in that policy, the report also states. It recommends clarifying code that “prior to election certification and absent a specific “request” from the Assembly to investigate a particular issue, the Election Commission’s task is to recommend to the Assembly whether the Clerk’s resolution of complaint or concern leaves unanswered a genuine issue of such significance and immediacy that the Assembly should not certify the election, or should delay doing so.”
The purpose and practice of the Assembly’s right to exert subpoena powers will also be reviewed following the investigation, with the report recommending an update to municipal code to “to state more clearly that the Assembly may exercise its subpoena powers for any valid legislative purpose.”
After seven months of investigation into the issue, assembly leadership indicate they are hopeful the issue will come to a complete resolution soon. “The Assembly’s inquiry was not intended to be, nor did it function as, a criminal investigation,” the report reads. “However, to the extent necessary to craft appropriate legislation, the inquiry did conduct additional fact-finding.”
“After months of measured inquiry, we are nearing the end point of this case,” said Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel. “With a charter-bound duty to oversee and protect our elections, we conducted four worksessions, deliberated in Ethics & Elections Committee meetings and deployed legal resources to compile a report on the case and deliver solutions to the public that will strengthen the bind between our code, municipal procedure and elections integrity.”
Two ordinances due to be presented at the Nov. 21 regular assembly meeting address the issues uncovered during the course of the Municipality of Anchorage ombudsman’s investigation into potential interference in the election following the release of a new IT Department policy.
The ordinance, AO 2023-124, would also streamline existing code to ensure the task is easier to complete, while AO 2023-125 would amend existing election laws to include penalties for public employees who “use or authorize use of municipal resources for political or partisan activity” or “engage in political activity while at the workplace or in the performance of work duties”. Each of those offenses would be a Class A misdemeanor offense.
“As Assembly Leadership, we don’t take the public’s concerns for election integrity lightly,” said Assembly Chair Christopher Constant, “and on this case, there were many.
The full report is still awaiting approval by the Anchorage Assembly to be entered into the public record.
In addition, two ordinances due to be presented at the Nov. 21 regular assembly meeting address the issues uncovered during the course of the Municipality of Anchorage ombudsman’s investigation into potential interference in the election following the release of a new IT Department policy.
A spokesperson for Mayor Dave Bronson’s office said they will take time to review the 336-page report — which was sent shortly before the close of business Friday — before issuing any comments.
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