Despite the usual theatrics that have become the norm at meetings, the Anchorage Assembly voted unanimously on Tuesday night to certify the results of the April 6 election and send Assemblymember Forrest Dunbar and conservative Dave Bronson to the May 11 run-off election.
With 75,441 ballots counted, the city’s turnout of 31.88% is slightly below the 2018 mayoral election where turnout was 36.31%. Neither Bronson (33.06%) nor Dunbar (31.02%) crossed the 45% threshold needed to win the race outright and will head to the head-to-head run-off election.
While Dunbar, the progressive candidate in this race, lags behind Bronson in what is largely a symbolic finish, progressives did well down the rest of the ballot. Anchorage School Board candidates Dora Wilson, Pat Higgins and Carl Jacobs all have leads outside of the automatic recount margin of a half-percentage point.
That’s not the case for the four-way race for School Board Seat B where just 0.35% separates progressive Kelly Lessens from far-right conservative Judy Eledge. An automatic recount has been tentatively scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Monday, but it would require an improbably shift to close the 228-vote margin. Recounts can also be ordered by losing candidates and groups of 10 citizens, but it comes with a fee of $50 per precinct and must be requested by this Friday. An election contest also be filed by next week.
All the rest: Anchorage Assembly Chair Felix Rivera handily avoided recall and all but two ballot propositions (bonds for health and safety code upgrades and police cruisers) were approved by voters. Voters approved a levy to fund police body cameras and the associated database systems.
Security: While some during the public comment session raised the specter of voter fraud, the municipal clerks said they found 18 instances of people voting twice. Anchorage Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones said some of the cases may have mitigating circumstances like elderly voters or voters who cast an in-person ballot after being notified that there was a signature match problem with their mail-in ballot. She said cases will be forwarded to the prosecutors with a few raising particular concern about potential fraud, which she said was properly caught by the system’s signature verification system. In total about 1,400 ballots were rejected with the leading reason being because of mismatched signatures. Voters have an opportunity to cure those problems, but only a small fraction did.
Assemblymember Crystal Kennedy asked Jones about rumors that some voters in District 4, the district tasked with voting on the Rivera Recall, got the wrong ballot and were deprived of the opportunity to vote on that issue. Jones said she has received no such concerns from voters but urged people to contact her or clerk’s office if they did.
“If someone believes they did not get the correct ballot, call me. We need to figure out why that was,” she said. “It’s a post-mortem. It’s not going to change this report unless I find something super serious that went wrong. The likelihood of that is fairly small because it’s two weeks after the election and people know to call me if they didn’t get a correct ballot for District 4. I did not get any calls. Zero calls.”
She noted that what ballots people receive is based off the information they provide to the state’s voter registration system and the city has no ability to update or change those rolls.
Jones said the clerks will be conducting their regular overview of the city’s election law and encouraged anyone with concerns about the election to contact the clerk’s office. She said the process will get underway after the May 11 run-off election and they will provide regular updates to the assembly.