Anchorage elections face ‘dire’ staffing shortfall

Download audio

Officials in Anchorage say they are critically understaffed for municipal elections April 5th.

Voters in Sitka during the August 2014 state primary election. Photo: Rachel Waldholz/KCAW
Voters in Sitka during the August 2014 state primary election. Photo: Rachel Waldholz/KCAW

According to Deputy Clerk Amanda Moser, the city depends on a minimum of 650 volunteers to keep polling stations staffed at 122 locations across the municipality. Currently, the Clerk’s Office, which oversees Anchorage’s elections, has just 580 spots confirmed.

“The concern with the 70 workers is they’re not spread evenly across the city,” Moser said Tuesday. “We currently have a handful of precincts that have no workers what-so-ever.”

The number of election volunteers has been down the last three years, according to Moser. On top of that, local elections in April, as opposed to general elections in November, tend to get less attention, with fewer voters turning out.

But the clerk’s office characterized the current shortfall as dire, with minimum staffing levels essential to getting ballots counted in a fair and timely manner.

“The biggest concern is our election worker training starts March 8th, so we are working diligently to staff these precincts.”

In April, Anchorage voters will be picking seats for the school board, as well as a bond package worth tens of millions of dollars for the Anchorage School District. They’ll also be choosing five of 11 members of the Anchorage Assembly, which approves the municipality’s final budget, and determines local laws ranging from commercial cannabis rules to the the recent passage of the state’s first equal protection ordinance for LGBT residents.

Residents interested in training to volunteer on election day can find more information on the municipality’s website.