At the December 6 Assembly meeting, the Anchorage Assembly voted 11-1 to adopt updates to Anchorage elections code with the passage of AO 2022-98 and AR 2022-328. The recommended changes were brought forward by the Assembly Ethics and Election Committee following their annual review of the Anchorage Election Code, Title 28. The changes were also reviewed and supported by the Anchorage Election Commission.
“As part of our municipality's efforts to keep elections transparent, secure and accessible, each year we take stock of the recent elections and make recommendations for improvements," said Assembly Ethics and Elections Chair Pete Petersen. “This year the Elections team took the proposed changes through a public process and came up with some modest changes to clarify definitions and timelines, as well as update the Election Observer's Handbook."
Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance added, “This is just another example of the strength of Anchorage's local election system, and we can all be proud in knowing that our election officials are always on the lookout for ways to refine and improve our voting systems to increase transparency and accountability to voters. I thank the elections workers, volunteers, election commissioners, election observers and members of the public who worked together on this successful process."
The highlights of the approved version of the ordinance makes amendments to the following sections of Title 28 in the Anchorage municipal code:
- AMC 28.10.040 Definitions – Clarification between “signature" and “mark." Under current code, signature is defined to include “any mark intended as a signature," and “mark" is not defined. The intermixing of the terms signature and mark in this definition has been confusing. Updating this definition is intended to provide a clearer standard.
- AMC 28.20.015 – Time for passage of ballot propositions. The current code provides that the assembly must take final action, including reconsideration, on all ordinances and resolutions not later than 70 days prior to the election. To illustrate, for this election cycle, the date of January 24 is 70 days before the election on April 4. A concern was raised that if the ballot ordinance is introduced on January 10 and set for hearing on January 24, this timeline cannot account for additional Assembly action, if necessary, in the event of a reconsideration vote, veto and veto override.
- AMC 28.50.220 – Video viewing of election process at designated return location. The code is amended to (1) define the beginning of the “election process" for the purpose of video livestreaming to be the delivery of the unmarked ballot stock to the designated return location, and (2) state the standard of “best efforts" for MOA Elections to provide livestreaming.
- AMC 28.70.030 – Ballot return envelope review standards. The deadline for receipt of a ballot for counting a Military Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter is changed in section AMC 28.70.030 to match the deadline for all other mailed ballot envelopes. This change allows the Election Commission to meet only once for the Public Session of Canvass instead of twice.
- AMC 28.80.050 – Rules for Counting Votes. During the 2022 Regular Municipal Election, many observers and members of the Election Commission interpreted certain marks as the voter's intent to not vote for the candidate or answer. This amendment codifies this interpretation that is illustrated in AO 2022-98.
More information can be found at www.muni.org/elections.
Pete Petersen | Assembly Member, Assembly Ethics and Elections Committee Chair
Suzanne LaFrance | Assembly Chair