Ballots are already arriving in Anchorage mailboxes to decide the mayoral run-off election between Forrest Dunbar and Dave Bronson. With a high-stakes race between two dramatically different visions for the city, it’s more important than ever to make sure your vote is counted because nearly 1,500 weren’t in the last election.
According to a report by the Anchorage clerks, there were 1,412 ballots that were not counted in the April 6 election with the two leading causes being signatures that don’t match what’s on file and late postmarks. There were 850 ballots that were ultimately rejected for no signature match and another 342 that were rejected for late postmarks.
With postmarks, it’s important to remember that dropping your ballot in your mailbox on election day doesn’t guarantee that it’ll be postmarked on that day. If you’re running up close to election day, the best bet is to drop it off at one of the city’s secure drop boxes. You can find the locations of the drop boxes here.
Problems with signatures were by far the leading cause for rejected ballots. In those cases, the city notifies affected voters by mail that they have up to 10 days after the election to cure their ballots by completing an additional document and sending in additional identification. In the last election, 603 voters took advantage of that opportunity for different reasons.
At the Anchorage Assembly meeting to certify the election results last week, Anchorage Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones said the city’s been strengthening its signature verification process, so it has been catching more mismatched signatures than in the past. While she said it was helpful in identifying a handful of potential cases of fraud, she said it’s a tightrope act between security and accessibility and urged people to think carefully when they sign.
“It needs to be your official, legal signature. Regrettably, sometimes people are using their Carr’s grocery store signature and I have a Carr’s grocery store signature and the difference is problematic for us. … Think about what’s on your driver’s license because some of the reference signatures on file are from the DMV,” she said, defending the process. “This is an important place to stop fraud. This is part of the way the system works. There’s a push and a pull, there’s a balance there. We would like to find that nice tightrope that we’re walking down where we’re rejecting signatures from people who are not the voter and are accepting signatures from the voter.”
In an email with The Midnight Sun, Jones added that the clerks plan on updating its “Opportunity to Cure” letter and giving people more options to cure their ballots. People can email or bring in the documents or, if it’s earlier in the election process, return them via mail or drop box.
Anchorage Assemblymember Christopher Constant has been vocal about the issue, promoting work to set up a ballot tracking system that will provide voters optional access to a ballot tracking system akin to package tracking systems. He said the goal would be to allow voters to know where their ballot is from “print shop to ballot box” and give them an opportunity to quickly be notified if a problem arises.
“Over the last year there’s been a lot of concern raised over election security and this is a simple, clear and understandable way to achieve election security,” he said, noting that he hopes the system is in place ahead of the 2022 election.