Furor over mail-in voting fades as Anchorage prepares for April election

Jamie Heinz inside Anchorage Election Center
Anchorage Election Administrator Jaime Heinz gives a tour of the Anchorage Election Center on Ship Creek Avenue on March 13, 2023. Heinz says interest in the inner workings and integrity of the city’s elections peaked in 2021. (Jeremy Hsieh/Alaska Public Media)

The public furor over the integrity of Anchorage’s by-mail municipal election has mostly faded away this year — though nearly half of the candidates for Anchorage Assembly say they don’t support the system. 

As part of the candidate comparison tool that Alaska Public Media partnered with the Anchorage Daily News to put together, we asked all 17 Assembly candidates if they support mail-in elections, which Anchorage has used since 2018. 

Seven candidates said yes, without reservation. One said yes, with caveats. Eight candidates said no, some without explanation, some because of concerns about transparency, fraud or voters’ faith in the system. One candidate didn’t directly answer the question.

Anchorage Election Administrator Jamie Heinz said the level of public concern peaked in 2021, and has fallen way off. 

“We haven’t received a lot of phone calls recently about election integrity concerns,” she said of the current election cycle. 

She thinks part of the reason has been a push to make Anchorage’s elections more transparent. 

For example, when operations moved into the Anchorage Election Center in 2018, they offered public tours. They still do, though there’s been little interest lately. 

Taking the tour is also part of the training required of campaign workers who want to become registered election observers. These observers are familiarized with election workers’ duties and procedures, and have a formal way to challenge some of the decisions election workers make.

Heinz said last year, about 80 people started the observer training and took the tour. About a quarter followed through and actually observed.  

So far this year, only 21 people have begun the observer training.

“I think it’s dropping off a little bit,” Heinz said. 

Heinz said another way they’ve increased transparency is by live streaming security camera feeds of the election center. Heinz said that began during the pandemic so people could see what was going on. It went 24/7 last year, following an Assembly mandate. 

On YouTube, a 9-hour block of video from the day after Election Day in 2021 has the most views: 571. For the videos around Election Day 2022, the view counts were under 100. Lately, a typical 12-hour block of video has view counts in the single digits — or none at all.

a portrait of a man outside

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him atjhsieh@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremyhere.

Previous articleHow understanding hibernation can help improve human medicine | Alaska Insight
Next articleState of Art: Out North’s 2023 Fringe Festival