Election Law Revision Before Assembly

A new version of Anchorage Election law, or Title 28, will be before the Assembly at their next meeting.

Officials began reviewing the law after problems with an election in 2012.

Voters walk into Airport Heights Elementary School to cast their vote. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA - Anchorage
Voters walk into Airport Heights Elementary School to cast their vote. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The rewrite comes after polling places ran out of ballots in 2012, even though the turnout was expected to be high and extra ballots had been printed, but not quickly distributed to polling sites. The result was long delays or citizens being turned away.

Deputy Clerk Amanda Moser says the clerk’s office worked closely with the election commission along with the department of law for about a year to streamline the voting process.

“So for example, if a voter is unexpectedly out of state we’ve increased the amount of time to request a ballot by fax,” Moser said. “And we’ve also increased opportunities should there be an emergency situation to allow the clerk to make quick decisions to allow for more voting opportunities.”

Moser says a new section in the law empowers the clerk to extend voting through a judge instead of going to the Assembly if something extraordinary happens on Election Day.

In 2012, other problems arose when some people voted on photocopied ballots which were not counted as official ballots. The rewrite allows photocopied ballots to be counted if they’re used in the future.

Moser met with the Assembly and the Election Commission Monday to review the change. Assembly members’ were focused on a small section of the code that bans poll watchers from using electronic devices in polling locations. Moser says the clerk’s office is concerned about the possibility of poll watchers recording confidential information at polling places.

“It’s not saying that poll watchers can’t have electronic devices. It’s just preventing the use actually in the physical polling location,” Moser said. “And the concern from the clerk’s office and from the election commission is just the confidential information.”

Information like social security numbers and signatures are required to file question and absentee ballots. Citizen observers of the recount process, Moser says, will still be allowed to take photos and video.

In addition, many changes were made for clarity, to modernize language, to making the code gender neutral and more accessible to citizens.

The Assembly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14 is the last chance for the public to weigh in on changes to Anchorage election law.