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Anchorage

Midtown voters rejecting recall of Assembly Chair Rivera in early election results

Anchorage Assembly Chair Felix Rivera participates in a special meeting on reorganization Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Early results posted Tuesday night indicate that Midtown voters rejecting an initiative to recall Anchorage Assembly Chair Felix Rivera, though thousands of votes remain uncounted.

Results show that about 60% of District 4 voters so far have voted “no” on the initiative to recall of Rivera, while 40% have voted “yes.”

Just 1,636 District 4 ballots had been counted — under 4% of the total registered voters in the district.

Those percentages will likely change, as thousands of ballots remained uncounted Tuesday night and many more were expected to arrive by mail in the coming days, election officials said.

The elections center received over 45,700 ballot envelopes on Monday and estimated that it received 13,000 more on Tuesday, elections officials said in a statement. By Tuesday, the elections center had counted just over 10,600 total ballots.

Most ballots that were postmarked by April 6 have until April 16 to arrive at the elections center and be counted; overseas ballots have until April 20.

It’s unclear at this point whether the vote will swing back against Rivera over the next 10 days.

Proponents of the initiative have said that they see it as a “referendum” on the entire Anchorage Assembly, although it focuses only on Rivera.

Political tensions in the city have mounted during the last year over the city’s pandemic emergency orders and economic shutdowns, along with a controversial plan to purchase buildings for homeless and treatment services using CARES Act funds, all of which some residents have opposed.

Many of the recall’s proponents have actively opposed the city’s emergency orders and its capacity restrictions

The recall petition’s approval was based on claims about a specific incident at an Assembly meeting in August. The petition claims that Rivera failed to perform his duties as Assembly chair when he did not halt the meeting after another Assembly member said it may have exceeded a pandemic emergency order’s capacity restrictions.

A group of Midtown residents supporting Rivera challenged the recall initiative and the truthfulness of its claim in superior court, but a judge ruled that it could move ahead.

The judge noted that, according to legal precedence and Alaska law, the court and the city clerk can’t investigate whether the claims against Rivera in the petition are actually true, and that it is up to voters to decide.

Correction: Russell Biggs, sponsor of the petition to recall Rivera, has not actively opposed all the city’s emergency orders and capacity restrictions, as an earlier version of this article implied. He opposed the closure of the Assembly chambers to the public due to the pandemic, and has not spoken out about masks, which he said he supports.

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