Anchorage Assembly endorses vote-by-mail election in 2017

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to support conducting the 2017 city election by mail, rather than by in-person polling precincts.

In a vote-by-mail election, the city will automatically mail ballots to every registered voter in Anchorage, deputy clerk Amanda Moser said in a recent interview. Voters would no longer visit a polling precinct on Election Day to fill out a ballot. Officials have been exploring the change for several years and say it will boost low voter turnout in city elections.

Ernie Hall, the chair of the Assembly's elections committee, said during Tuesday's meeting that it often takes time to go through city ballots. With vote-by-mail, "you can sit down and look at (the ballot) in the comfort of home," Hall said.

The change would mean that instead of 122 polling precincts, the city would offer a few accessible voting centers, Moser said. Voters can return ballots by mailing them to the city, dropping them in a drop box or leaving them at one of the voting locations.

Officials cited high voting numbers elsewhere in the country to support switching to vote-by-mail. In King County, Washington, the vote-by-mail turnout for a recent presidential election was 86 percent, Moser told the Assembly on Tuesday.

Tuesday's vote by the Assembly gives the clerk's office permission to start voter education and outreach about the new system, which officials hope to launch in the April 2017 city election. The change would apply only to local elections.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.