What to know about Tuesday’s vote on whether to recall Midtown Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel

On Tuesday, a special election will decide whether Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel keeps her Midtown seat.

District 4 voters have little time left to cast their ballots in the recall vote that many see as a battle over the balance of power in Anchorage. To be counted, mailed-in ballot packages must be postmarked on election day — Tuesday, Oct. 26 — or sooner. On Tuesday, in-person voting at the Loussac Library and secure ballot drop boxes in the district will close at 8 p.m.

Officials at the elections center will release one round of unofficial election results around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

With ballots continuing to arrive after Tuesday under the city’s vote-by-mail system, a clear determination on whether Zaletel will stay on the Assembly may take days. The vote tally could change as more ballots arrive, up until the Anchorage Assembly certifies the election results next month.

Officially, Midtown voters are deciding whether Zaletel should be recalled for participating in an Assembly meeting that may have had too many people present under a COVID-19 emergency order last year.

But campaigners on both sides of the recall effort say the special election is really about policy disagreements and the direction of Anchorage politics. Many supporters of her recall are critics of the city’s current and previous COVID-19 restrictions, which Zaletel has largely supported.

[Recall vote of Assembly member Meg Zaletel viewed as a proxy battle over the future of Anchorage politics]

The elections center will update the vote tally in fresh unofficial election results on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to the municipal clerk’s office.

District 4 residents can vote in person at the Anchorage Vote Center at the Loussac Library from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

For residents who prefer to turn in their ballot packages via one of the city’s secure drop boxes, ballot packages must make it into a drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

In early October, about 36,200 ballot packages were mailed to registered District 4 voters. The elections center had received 7,880 ballot return envelopes as of Friday, according to the municipal clerk’s office.

All ballots, except military and overseas ballots, must arrive at the elections center by Nov. 8 before the Public Session of Canvass begins. (That is scheduled for 5 p.m.) A few military and overseas ballots could trickle in until noon Nov. 9, the day of certification of the special election results.

The Zaletel recall is nearly identical to the recall of Midtown Assembly member Felix Rivera, which voters in the district soundly rejected in April.

In both recalls, the petitions were challenged in court before making it onto a ballot. Judges upheld the recall petitions in both cases, saying that under Alaska law, it is up to the voters, not the courts, to decide whether the allegations in a recall petition are true and worthy of recall.

In Tuesday’s special election, both the pro- and anti-recall campaigners say they face a bigger challenge to get out the vote than in Rivera’s recall, since the Zaletel recall vote is not happening during a regular election.

Each side has poured tens of thousands of dollars into the special election so far.

Third-party group Recall Meg has raised $12,300 in donations in the last week before the election, on top of the more than $96,000 it had already raised, according to state records.

The recall Zaletel campaign itself has raised $32,407 so far. That’s about $140,707 in support of the recall so far.

The campaign to keep Zaletel in office has raised nearly $60,200.

A third party group also supporting the Assembly member has garnered $70,200, bringing the total cash in support of Zaletel to around $130,400.