In bold type, the disclaimer printed at the bottom of Mayor Dave Bronson’s six-page manifesto declaring an investigation into April’s municipal election read: “Mayor Bronson and his administration are not questioning the results of the election.” The rest of the text, which details the inquiry itself, tells a different story.
Citing flimsy complaints made by affiliates of failed candidates, the mayor’s office announced a sweeping inquiry into the election’s results, making extensive demands for records and election-related communications from the clerk’s office. The mayor said his office will foot the bill for a third-party audit of the results — which means that Anchorage taxpayers will — despite the clerk’s office and the independent Anchorage Election Commission both reporting that “any mistakes made or other informalities are unintentional (and) fairly minor.”
It’s fair to seek confirmation that an election was fairly conducted and untainted by partisan politics. That’s why campaigns send observers to polling places. It’s why there are members of the Election Commission with varying backgrounds and experiences within the election system. Two members of that commission, for reference, are Mead Treadwell and Loren Leman, both Republican former lieutenant governors who oversaw Alaska’s Division of Elections infrastructure. Both were appointed by Bronson; neither has any incentive to understate election issues. And they affirmed that even the alleged and unsubstantiated complaints made by campaigns after the fact “are unlikely to change the outcomes of any of the candidate races or the issues on the ballot.”
So what’s going on? Why make a mountain out of what is obviously a molehill, if even that? Why is the mayor planning on farming out an audit to a yet-unidentified third party when that approach proved a debacle for Arizona when it embarked on a politicized recount of the state’s 2020 presidential election ballots? If the mayor’s office is looking for competent, qualified help, the municipality has an attorney’s office that is likely more qualified and familiar with Anchorage’s procedures than a Lower 48 contractor.
To leave no doubt, the security of the election process is paramount, and if there were any real, credible evidence it had been compromised, an investigation would be warranted. But there is no such evidence — the mayor’s inquiry is a fishing expedition, a means by which partisans and ideological allies can continue to cast doubt on elections where they underperformed. It is a partisan PR stunt, nothing more. The goal is not to restore faith in the clerk’s office and Anchorage’s elections, but to undermine them; it’s no coincidence that Bronson-allied observers subjected elections staff to “unprecedented harassment” during the counting of ballots in the 2021 mayoral race.
Ultimately, as with many similar efforts claiming to support “election security” across the U.S., the true goal is to make it harder to vote. It’s an echo of past efforts, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, to restrict the pool of voters to those more likely to support those doing the restricting. That’s doubly shameful. First, it’s a betrayal of the one of the fundamental principles of American democracy — that everyone eligible to do so should have an equal say in selecting our representatives in government. And second, it’s clear that mail-in voting, which many of these proposals seek to cast doubt on or restrict, is a safe, secure and easy way to cast our votes. It’s also one that has increased voter turnout substantially in most of the elections since it has been put into place.
It’s the fact that mail-in voting works well that has put it in the crosshairs for those seeking to make voting more difficult. In addition to restricting mail-in voting directly, “election security” measures also include inordinately strict witness requirements, removing ballot drop boxes and shrinking the window for voters to cast ballots early. Taken together, they can substantially restrict the pool of voters — all in an attempt to gain partisan advantage. Anchorage shouldn’t be fooled; vote-by-mail is secure and greatly aids working voters whose ability to make it to a polling place on Election Day is limited. Those seeking to undermine our elections and make it more difficult to vote don’t deserve your support.
While none of government’s functions should be exempt from scrutiny and there’s always room for improvement, it’s clear via the checks, balances and reviews already in place that Anchorage’s elections are being conducted professionally and without serious errors. The mayor should cut bait on his fishing expedition and focus instead on our city’s real and pressing issues.