The Anchorage Assembly voted decisively Tuesday night not to put forward a ballot measure making the city’s clerk, an office that oversees elections and other duties, an elected position.
By a 9-3 vote, members rejected the move, with just a trio of conservatives opting to advance the measure to the April ballot, where it would still require approval by a majority of Anchorage voters.
“The Anchorage municipal clerk’s office is running smoothly,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said in advance of discussion during Tuesday’s meeting.
At issue is whether the city official in charge of running municipal elections and effectively organizing business for the legislative branch of local government should campaign to be elected by voters, or, as is currently the case, serve as a nonpartisan professional at the pleasure of the 12-member Assembly. Mayor Dave Bronson proposed the change in 2021 after conservative criticism of the municipality’s election laws, much of which centered on unfounded accusations of interference in voting.
“Having the clerk elected by the people will increase transparency,” Bronson said, reading from prepared remarks at the start of the meeting.
Members of the Assembly, as well as civic groups such as the Anchorage League of Women Voters, disagreed, saying the move would make the city’s highest elections official a politician beholden to funders and campaigns.
Assembly members signaled earlier in the week they thought the change was a bad move, with leadership issuing a statement saying they did not support the measure. Bronson countered with a message of his own asking supporters to show up and speak during public testimony. That effort was neutered when the Assembly opted to postpone the measure indefinitely, killing it without giving supporters the chance to spend meeting time commenting on its merits.
Assembly member Forrest Dunbar said he and others oppose the measure and that over the last year, Assembly matters touching on election integrity “tend to give a platform to people spewing disinformation.”
By that point in the meeting, Bronson had left, and nobody in the administration spoke on the measure’s behalf.
Assembly member Jamie Allard offered a brief statement of support for the ordinance.
“I wanted to see this go on the ballot,” Allard said.
Ultimately the measure was effectively killed, with only members Allard, Kevin Cross and Randy Sulte supporting it.
During the meeting, the Assembly also opted to not approve two members of the Library Advisory Board until a new library director is selected, and postponed hearings on three executive appointments until after committee hearings further vetting their credentials.