State of the Race: Effort underway to let Anchorage use its vote-by-mail system in 2018 elections

(Anchorage Municipal Clerks)

It was a relatively quiet Memorial Day weekend for candidate filings, but the day and hours until the deadline to set this year’s ballots are fast ticking down. Here’s what’s happened and what to look forward to.

League of Women Voters Anchorage calls for vote-by-mail in 2018 elections

Earlier this month the League of Women Voters of Anchorage called for the state to allow the Anchorage-area to vote by mail in the 2018 state elections. The letter, which was sent to Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott (who oversees the state’s elections) and Division of Elections Director Josie Bahnke on May 16, made the rounds over the weekend.

The push comes after record-high voter turnout in this year’s local Anchorage elections. The 36.31 percent turnout saw a wave of progressive victories, including the defeat of a bathroom bill targeting transgender people and the re-election of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Anchorage was tightly involved in the public education campaign that lead up to the first-ever vote-by-mail election, conducting dozens of open houses according to their May newsletter. Those efforts made the chapter one of three finalists for the national League of Women Voters’ “Strengthening Democracy” award.

Still, the first word from the Division of Elections, as was reported by KTVA, is that the change would require action by the Alaska Legislature.  

“Changing the existing precinct-based system for state elections would require legislation that makes significant modifications to state statutes,” spokesperson Samantha Miller told the outlet.

Regardless of the outcome for this year’s elections, the efforts to move more of Alaska’s voting to a vote-by-mail system is unlikely to go away.

The resolution

Resolution on the Vote-By-Mail Voting System Utilized in the Municipality of Anchorage

Whereas the Municipality of Anchorage conducted the April 3, 2018 municipal election under the new Vote-By-Mail system;

Whereas the voters of the Municipality of Anchorage embraced and endorsed the new Vote-By-Mail system with a record turnout of 36.31%; and

Whereas the voters of the Municipality of Anchorage expect future elections, local/state/federal, to be conducted in a similar manner to avoid confusion surrounding the logistics and procedures for voting; now, therefore, be it

Resolved that the League of Women Voters of Anchorage on behalf of its members

supports the State of Alaska utilizing the Municipality of Anchorage new Vote-By- Mail system beginning with the State of Alaska elections of 2018;

supports the new paper ballot Vote-By-Mail system which proved to be secure and safe from electronic vulnerabilities and is easy, convenient and accessible to all voters within the Municipality of Anchorage;

and supports a hybrid approach using the Anchorage Vote-By-Mail system.

Adopted: May 9, 2018 by Unanimous Vote of Board Members participating in the meeting.

Other developments

A Fairbanks primary

The weekend was relatively quiet for additional entrants into legislative races.

The one filing that registered on the radars of Interior politicos was the filing of Republican Wolfgang Falke to join the primary for House District 1. With incumbent Democratic Rep. Scott Kawasaki vacating the seat to pursue the Senate, it’s considered to be one of the potential pickups for Republicans.

Business community-backed Bart LeBon (a former Mt. McKinley Bank executive) has filed to run as a Republican. He’s still the favored candidate to win the Republican nomination for the seat, but Falke could make it interesting. Falke was one of a handful of private landowners that brought a lawsuit against the sale of municipally owned utilities that made quite a few in the Fairbanks business community very wealthy.

The winner of that primary will go up against Fairbanks North Star Borough Presiding Officer Kathryn Dodge.

Incumbents with paperwork to file

There are quite a few incumbent legislators who have filed the paperwork necessary to fundraise for the seat, but have yet to take the final step to appear on the ballot by filing with the Division of Elections.

Those candidates include:

  • Sen. Pete Kelly (and his Democratic challenger Rep. Scott Kawasaki)
  • Harriet Drummond (whose Republican opponent Anthony Lekanof is on the ballot)
  • Matt Claman (and his Republican challenger Marilyn Stewart)
  • Chris Tuck (who has two Republican challengers Forrest McDonald and Connie Dougherty already on the ballot)
  • Lance Pruitt (whose Republican primary challenger Donald Jones and Democratic challenger Liz Snyder are already on the ballot)
  • Paul Seaton (who has three Republican challengers–John Cox, Hank Kroll and Sarah Vance–are already on the ballot. A fourth challenger, Robert Ruffner, has dropped out after filing initial paperwork)
  • John Lincoln

From talks with political insiders, it doesn’t sound like anyone on this list is expected to drop out but there’s always room for surprises.

The deadline is 5 p.m. on Friday.

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1 Comment on "State of the Race: Effort underway to let Anchorage use its vote-by-mail system in 2018 elections"

  1. marna sanford | May 30, 2018 at 8:23 am | Reply

    I take issue with your headline, just as I did Mustread’s and the KTVA’s – I find it to be sensational. A resolution isn’t an “effort”. It gives the impression that this could happen and could happen in a matter of a few months, which is absolutely not possible. You are absolutely right that this is not going away. The Division of Elections has been working on this issue for over a year. But it will involve a lengthy and cumbersome legislation change (with public comment) and a massive statewide effort. I find the headlines from yesterday misleading, as the resolution actually talked about a hybrid system that would work well for all Alaskan, urban and rural. Either way, a new voting system is headed our way, but not the year.

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