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Anchorage

The Anchorage vote-by-mail election ends Tuesday

  • Author: Devin Kelly
  • Updated: April 3
  • Published March 30

If your ballot in the Anchorage city election is still sitting unopened on your kitchen table, if it's hopelessly lost in your house, or if it never showed up in the first place, heads up: The election ends Tuesday, April 3.

This election is the first ever conducted by mail in Anchorage. Ballots must be postmarked on election day. A post office at the airport is open until 11 p.m. A postal official would need to hand-stamp the postmark.

It's a packed ballot, with contenders for mayor and Anchorage School Board and an assortment of propositions, including a potential utility sale and a measure regulating restrooms and "intimate facilities" by sex at birth.

There are several ways to vote. Fill out your ballot, sign it and drop it in the mail with a first-class stamp. Or drop it in one of a dozen secure drop boxes around Anchorage.

If you lost or haven't received your ballot, you can vote in person at the city's five accessible vote centers. The vote centers are located at the Loussac Library, City Hall, the city's election headquarters on Ship Creek Avenue, O'Malley's on the Green in South Anchorage, and Eagle River Town Center.

Vote-by-mail was pitched as a way to beef up turnout. But turnout has so far fallen short of expectations, candidates and campaign strategists said. As of Thursday, close to 39,000 voters had returned ballots, according to the latest data provided by the city clerk's office. The city mailed out 194,000 ballot packages.

In the 2017 election, 49,748 people voted. But about 56,000 voted in the 2015 regular mayoral race. Turnout in the past few mayoral elections in Anchorage has ranged between 55,000 and 75,000 people.

Upon request, the city clerk's office provides a daily list of the names and addresses of people who have cast ballots. The list doesn't say how a person voted, but it does indicate a ballot has been received. Campaigns can request the voter list from the city clerk's office and compare it to the lists of registered party members to try to contact supporters who still haven't voted.

Rebecca Logan, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, said her campaign contacted about 3,000 people by phone from her headquarters in downtown Anchorage on Saturday.

In the phone calls, she heard mixed reviews on voting by mail. Some people loved sitting down with a cup of coffee to read the ballot. Others didn't trust it.

Lots of people had not received a ballot at that point, Logan said. She said there seemed to be a lot of confusion around dealing with a new process.

She said her campaign started telling people to head to accessible vote centers if they hadn't received a ballot yet.

Berkowitz's campaign manager, Ian Laing, said the campaign was also focused on making sure likely voters had received ballots and knew how to turn them in.

He said the end of the election Tuesday will be different from in the past: No one will know exactly how many more ballots will be coming in.

"At the end of the day, we just have our finger in the wind here," Laing said.

An analysis of data by Dittman Research, an Anchorage political consulting firm that typically works for Republicans but does not have any clients in this election, showed this election's voting patterns by party affiliation were consistent with prior elections.

As of Thursday, nonpartisan voters had the highest turnout, at 22 percent. Anchorage's registered Republicans and Democrats were tied at 19 percent. Undeclared voters had the lowest turnout, at close to 14 percent.

There were similar voting patterns in the past three Anchorage elections, according to the analysis.

Overall turnout was at about 17.3 percent, compared to nearly 30 percent in the 2015 regular mayoral race. The turnout was highest in South Anchorage, followed by Oceanview, West Anchorage and Chugiak.

For Republicans and Democrats, turnout was below 20 percent of who was registered for both those parties.

The analysis also found that people who had been registered to vote in Alaska the longest were turning out in far greater numbers than people who had just moved here.

When a ballot comes in, elections officials check signatures against a database to verify identities.

On Election Night, it may be difficult to predict winners if races are close.

At 8 p.m. Tuesday, election workers will start counting ballots received up until at least Sunday. The ballot count is expected to be completed about 8:30 p.m.

But ballots cast Tuesday will not be included in that count, said Carolyn Hall, the election's education and outreach coordinator. She said that may be the case for ballots cast Monday as well.

It won't be known until later in the week whether a huge influx of ballots came in on Election Day.

"The paradigm hasn't completely changed," said Ivan Moore, a political consultant who has done polling for the Berkowitz campaign. "I think a lot of people are still waiting for the end."

Visit the city elections website at muni.org/elections for voting and ballot information.

Note: This article has been edited to reflect that ballots have to be postmarked before midnight Tuesday to be counted, not by 8 p.m.

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