The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday rejected a challenge filed in the April 4 city election, reaffirming the previous certification of results.
The challenge, filed by Daniel Smith, Brenda Hastie and eight other voters, claimed that more than 36,000 voters were disenfranchised because they didn’t receive a notice of the election or a mailed ballot package.
In a 9-3 vote, members declined to investigate the claims further.
That means in order for the challenge to be heard further, the voters who filed it would have to appeal to the courts, and a judge would have to overturn the Assembly’s decision.
Before the vote, Matthew Hurt, attorney for the Assembly, told members that when deciding whether to hear the challenge, they must consider only two items: the notice of election contestation and the certified report of election results, which includes the report of canvass from the Anchorage Election Commission and election clerk.
Assembly members said, based on those factors, the contest failed to allege one of the three grounds that city code requires: That there has been “malconduct, fraud or corruption on the part of an election official sufficient to change the result of the election”; that an official who has been elected is not qualified as required by law; or that there’s been “any corrupt practice as defined by law sufficient to change the result of the election.”
“Frankly, the notice of election contest just falls short of alleging what is required in order for us to look at this further,” Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel said.
The contest, filed May 4, broadly challenged election results, claiming that 36,143 registered voters were deprived of the notice of an upcoming election because they were not mailed an election announcement postcard. It also said that 1,193 registered voters did not receive a ballot by mail, although they had voted in the state’s November general election.
Election Clerk Jamie Heinz, in a response to the contest, urged the Assembly to vote down the challenge. The city followed all laws for voter notification of the election and mailing ballots, she said. Also, the city is not required to mail ballots to some people in the state’s voter rolls, according to city code. That includes those who haven’t voted in at least four years in a state or municipal election, and voters whose mail sent by the state Division of Elections has been returned as undeliverable.
Heinz provided Smith a list of 35,974 registered voters the city did not mail ballots to.
The number of voters who Smith and others claimed were disenfranchised — 36,143 — doesn’t match, and it’s unclear what information the contest referenced to support its claims, Heinz said.
Heinz’s response to the contest was not an item the Assembly should include in its consideration of the matter, Hurt said. Attorney Joe Miller, who is representing the election contest petitioners, replied to the clerk in a supplement to the petition.
Hurt also said the Assembly could not consider Miller’s letter in its decision whether to hear the contest.
Miller argued that the petitioners in their contest had alleged one of the required grounds, malconduct by election officials, and that it would be sufficient to change one or more of the races, because officials did not mail ballots to thousands of voters.
Assembly members Kevin Cross, Randy Sulte and Scott Myers voted in favor of moving the contest forward.