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How to make sure your vote is counted in the Anchorage mayoral runoff

A voter drops off a vote-by-mail ballot for the regular municipal election at the Anchorage Vote Center in the Loussac Library on March 31, 2021. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Ballots for the runoff election for Anchorage mayor are in the mail and election day, May 11, is soon approaching.

Following the Anchorage Assembly’s certification of the April 6 election results, the city clerk’s office mailed out about 223,000 ballot packages on April 21.

The clerk’s office will also conduct a recount of the election results for school board seat B. Kelly Lessens leads Judy Eledge in that race by a small margin.

With Dave Bronson and Forrest Dunbar facing off in the runoff campaign for Anchorage mayor and the school board seat up for an automatic recount, here’s what Anchorage voters should expect next.

How to vote in the runoff

Voters should receive their ballot package in the mail by Wednesday, April 28, according to the city clerk.

If you don’t receive a ballot in the mail, you should call to alert the elections center at 907-243-VOTE (8683).

The runoff election works just like the last one, but with a slightly tighter timeline.

Election day is May 11 and the first vote results will be released at about 8 p.m. that day. But like last time, the vote count will change until all mail-in ballots are received and processed.

In the April 6 race, a larger-than-usual number of ballots with extra marks slowed down the ballot tabulation process unexpectedly.

With that in mind, here’s the clerk’s advice: Make sure to follow the directions and fill in one oval, and use only blue or black ink.

If you do make a mistake, draw a line through the mistakenly filled oval and candidate name, and then fill in the correct oval.

A scanned image of a ballot is displayed on a screen at an adjudication station on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at the Municipality of Anchorage election center. When the computer software detects an abnormal ballot, such as if more than one candidate is selected in a race, the ballot in question is flagged for adjudication by a human. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Also, be sure to sign your ballot envelope with your legal signature — for example, the signature you would use for a driver’s license or passport. All returned ballot envelopes go through a signature verification process during which elections workers compare the signature on your ballot envelope to a reference signature on file.

If they find that your signature does not match, your vote won’t be counted yet. You’ll receive a letter from the elections center and you will have to go through an authentication process to make sure your ballot is processed.

Mailed ballots must be postmarked no later than election day and received by the elections center by noon on May 21 to be counted.

Ballots can also be returned to one of the 18 secure drop boxes around the city, up to 8 p.m. on election day.

Anchorage residents can also apply to vote by email or fax instead, and should contact or call 907-243-8683 to get the process started.

Three vote centers open for in-person voting on May 5. It’s a good option for people who don’t receive a ballot in the mail for some reason, or those who lose or damage their ballot, or for those who prefer in-person voting.

Starting on May 5, the vote centers at City Hall, Eagle River Town Center and the Loussac Library are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and on Saturday, May 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, May 9 from noon to 5 p.m.

On election day, all vote centers are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The results of the runoff are scheduled to be certified at an Assembly meeting on May 25, according to the election calendar.

How the school board recount will work

The recount for school board seat B is tentatively scheduled to take place at 1:30 p.m. on April 26.

Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones said the results of the recount should be available that day.

Certified election results show candidate Lessens took 38.78% of the vote in the race, with Eledge just behind with 38.43%. With a 0.35% margin between them — just 228 votes — municipal code requires the city clerk to conduct an automatic recount.

All ballots have already been scanned into the city’s system. A recount means that the city’s Dominion tabulation system will again count the ballots for that particular race, and ballots that need adjudication will be adjudicated.

Adjudication must happen when the computer software processing the ballots detects an abnormal ballot. The person adjudicating a ballot applies the relevant municipal code to try to determine the voter’s intent, verifying with human eyes.

Election workers Lois Hansen, left, and Jerry Laycock organize ballot envelopes before they are placed in a mail sorting machine on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at the Municipality of Anchorage election center. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Sometimes voters fill in more than one oval, leave stray marks or writing, or the ovals are filled in with red ink, which the municipality’s ballot scanner can’t read. Properly corrected votes with crossed-out ovals must also be adjudicated.

The recount process checks for errors in the original adjudication process. If the numbers of the recount don’t match the certified election results, the clerk’s office will explain why there is a difference, Jones said.

After the recount, the Assembly later certifies the recount results.

Now that the April 6 election is certified, any candidate or group of 10 voters can file an application with the municipal clerk for a recount of the votes within seven days of certification, which occurred April 20. They can file for a recount of any particular precinct, office, proposition or measure, according to city code.