Who is responsible for preparing
for the election and making sure it runs smoothly?
state law (AS
the municipal clerk is supervisor of elections and is responsible
for administering all municipal elections. The governing
body, mayor or manager having oversight of the clerk is
ensuring the clerk's duties are carried out, and members
the public are ultimately responsible for ensuring municipal
officials execute local laws.
Is there help available for
The Local Government Handbook chapter
provides additional information. Also, if your local election
ordinance and/or the information provided here do not address
the issue, the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community,
and Economic Development, Division of Community and Regional Affairs Regional
Offices provide local government assistance. There
are also several publications available that address elections.
Association of Municipal Clerks and Alaska
Municipal League may also provide support in some instances.
What are the minimum mandatory requirements for
conducting an election?
law a municipality must:
- prescribe rules for conducting
an election and appoint an election board from precinct
voters, unless no voter is willing to serve (AS
- conduct the regular municipal
election on the first Tuesday in October annually, unless
otherwise provided by ordinance (AS
- conduct a runoff election
if no candidate receives 40% of the vote for the office
of mayor or a designated seat, unless otherwise provided
by ordinance (AS
29.26.060(a)), or if no candidate in an at large election
receives greater than 40% of the total votes cast divided
by the number of seats to be filled, unless otherwise provided
by ordinance (AS 29.26.060(b));
- if appropriate, conduct a
runoff election within three weeks after certification of
the election and publish notice of the election for at least
five days before the election date, unless otherwise provided
by ordinance (AS 29.26.060(c));
- conduct the runoff election
with only the two candidates receiving the greatest number
of votes for the seat (AS 29.26.060(c));
- declare the election results
at the first meeting to canvas the election, record the
results in the meeting minutes, and authorize the results
to be certified, unless otherwise provided by ordinance
- require a contestant to pay
all costs of an election recount if the count fails to reverse
the result or the difference between the winning vote count
and losing vote count is more than 2% (AS 29.26.070(d));
- require a person wanting
to appeal or seek judicial review to be a voter, exhaust
all administrative remedy before the governing body before
seeking judicial review, and, if seeking judicial review,
commence any court action within 10 days of date the governing
body declares the election results (AS 29.26.070(e)).
Constitution (Article V, Section 3) also protects the
right to vote by absentee ballot, the right to vote by secret
ballot, and the right to contest an election and seek judicial
review of election practices.
Who enforces the rules?
The local governing body is the enforcement entity and is
responsible for providing administrative review of the election process and/or actions of
election officials. If a person disagrees with a decision of the governing body they may
file a lawsuit to request judicial review of the decision. The governing body indicates
its review and approval of the election by certifying the election in writing. (AS 29.26.070)
A sample "certificate of election" is available in the Additional Resources section below.
Can alcohol be sold on election day?
Check your code of ordinances. State law (AS
prohibits the sale of alcohol on election day while the polls are open unless the municipality has adopted
an ordinance stating otherwise.
What is electioneering?
Electioneering is a term used to refer
to election practices prohibited by AS 15.15.160 and .170
Current Alaska Statutes). These prohibited practices are:
discussion of any political party, candidate, or political
issue by election board members during the time the polls
are open; and a prohibition against persuading a person to
vote for or against a candidate, proposition, or question,
in or within 200 feet of any polling place or entrance to
a polling place. This statute also requires election officials
to post warning notices at the required distance to the polling
Some actions may not seem to be election offenses but are.
For instance, State law prohibits wearing a campaign button ("vote for Mary Smith") within
200 feet of the polling place. Telling someone to vote in a certain manner while within
200 feet of the polling place is also considered an election offense. Cell phones are
becoming quite common. During some elections, voters in the voting booth have used their
cell phones to call someone to ask advice on how to vote. Since others can overhear the
conversation, it is wise to prohibit the use of cell phones in the polling place.
How is the polling place
of Elections has the only authority to decide and/or change
polling places (AS 15.10.020).
A municipality may not change the polling place without
the Division of Elections and receiving approval. If an
prohibits use of the polling site on election day, election
officials may choose another site with the best possible
access and notify the Division
of Elections immediately.
What is the proper way to set up a polling place?
Set up the polling place to ensure an easy flow of traffic
for voters to enter the polling place, sign in, get a ballot, vote, put the ballot in the
ballot box, prepare challenged or questioned ballot documents, and leave the polling place.
Keep in mind that the unused ballots must be safe guarded
at all times and that access to the polling booth must be limited to the voter (and any
person legitimately assisting the voter). The polling booths are set up so that the election
judges, while still maintaining the voter's privacy, can monitor them. The booths should not
contain anything except those specific items needed by the voter to vote (voting machines or
pens or pencils for marking the ballot).
What voting equipment and supplies are needed at the
Ballots are controlled items.
This means that all the ballots must be accounted for before
and after the election. To do this, the municipal clerk prepares
a ballot receipt form, which is signed by the clerk and the
election judges. This form specifies the number of ballots
delivered to and received at the polling place.
Some municipalities use punch cards or Accuvote
machines for voting. They must be set up and working properly
the morning of the election. If your municipality uses Accuvote,
please contact the Division
of Elections for assistance with their use.
In addition to the ballots, the election judges will need
the following items:
- Master Voter Registration list
- Challenged or questioned ballot materials
- Sample ballot for posting
- Tally sheets for counting the ballots after the polls close
- Ballot accountability report
- Pens, paper, stapler
See the Additional Resources section for links to sample forms.
What needs to happen for the polls to officially open?
At the time the polls are to open, an election judge
announces: "The polls are now open" and displays the empty ballot box to everyone in the
polling place to prove it is empty and then seals it closed. The ballot box is not opened
again until the polls are closed and the election judges are ready to start counting the votes.
How is residency determined and what happens if a
person's name does not show up on the voter registration list?
Residents must be registered 30 days before the election
if they want to vote in the election. The Division
of Elections updates the voter
registration list to reflect those people who registered in time to vote in the election.
Residents who register to vote after the 30-day limit will not be on the Master Voter
If a person wants to vote, but doesn't show up on the list,
the person may vote a "questioned ballot," or "challenged ballot." (Note: Anyone wanting to vote must be allowed to.
Local election officials are not authorized to deny a person the right to vote, per AS
The Division of Elections determines a voter's residency and right to vote under the rules spelled
out in AS 15.05.020-.030. The clerk and canvas committee then verifies with Division of
Elections whether the vote can be counted.
This list is a requirement for verifying voter eligibility
on election day. The Master Voter Registration list is used by the city clerk prior to
election day to show who received absentee ballots, either by mail or in person.
The election judges need this information in case one of these voters tries to vote at the
polling place on election day.
Each voter entering the polling place gives his or her
name to the election judge who checks the Master Voter Registration list to determine if
the voter is listed. If the voter is on the list, he or she signs the voter registration
list and receives a ballot. If the individual is not on the Master Voter Registration list,
the person must vote a "questioned ballot."
What is the process for voting a questioned ballot?
Occasionally, a person who wants to vote is not on the
Master Voter Registration List. When this happens, the person must vote a
- The person fills out an "oath and affidavit
envelope" stating that he or she is a registered voter.
- The person is then given a ballot and instructed to
return to an election judge after voting.
- The ballot is placed in a plain, unmarked envelope that
is then placed in a questioned ballot envelope.
- The "affidavit envelope" is sealed and signed by the
election official and is then placed in the ballot box.
Before these ballots are counted, the municipal clerk
must check with the Division
of Elections to see if the person is registered to vote.
If the person is registered, the ballot is counted (see "counting votes".) If the person
is not registered to vote in the municipality, the ballot is not opened and is not counted.
Send a letter to the person explaining why the ballot was not counted.
Is there help available to assist voters with special
At times, a voter may need help in voting. Help should be
available in the following instances:
- Special needs: Sometimes
a voter is not able to get to the polling place on election
day. If this is the case, the voter can send a personal
representative before or on election day to get a ballot
for the voter. See Preparing
for a General Municipal Election" and AS
- Visually impaired voters:
If a voter is not able to read the ballot, the voter may
request assistance from the election judges or from a person
of the voter's choice (the voter can choose up to two people
for assistance). If someone other than an election judge
assists the voter, that person must state upon oath before
the election judge that they will not tell anyone how the
voter voted. See AS 15.15.240 for more information (Current
- Translating services: Ballots
are generally printed in English. At times, a voter may
request assistance in translating a ballot to another language.
Translating assistance is given in the same manner as assistance
to a visually impaired voter.
What happens if someone who requested an absentee ballot
wants to vote in person on election day?
who requested an absentee ballot decides they want to vote
at the polls instead. When this happens, the election judges
will spot the absentee ballot notation on the up-to-date Master Voter
Registration List. If the individual is on the Master Voter
Registration list but the list indicates that he or she
received an absentee ballot, the person must first give back
the absentee ballot before they can receive a regular ballot
at the polling place or, if they don't have the absentee
to give back, they must vote a questioned ballot.
Is an election held if no
one files to run for elected office?
Yes. Conducting regular elections is one of
the primary duties of a municipality and the election must
be held whether there are declared candidates or not. Instead
of writing in candidate names on the ballot, the ballot should
be prepared with lines so voters can write-in the name of
the person they are casting their vote for. Under AS
29.60.290, a municipality must conduct a regular election
within the preceding fiscal year to qualify for state shared
Can election officials all
be registered to one political party?
Municipal elections are non-partisan.
29.06.320(1)(E) states that a home rule charter must include
nonpartisan government. Title 29 does not specify the same
requirement for general law communities, however, the qualifications
to run for municipal office have no requirement other than
being qualified to vote and living in a designated area. (AS
How are voting rights lost
Constitution (Article V, Section 2) and AS 15.05.030 (see
Alaska Statutes) specify that a person convicted of a
crime that constitutes a felony involving moral turpitude
may not vote in a state, federal, or municipal election from
the date of conviction through the date of unconditional discharge
(completion of time served, parole, and/or probation). The
person must show proof of the unconditional discharge from
custody when registering to vote. Moral turpitude is defined
in AS 15.60.010(7).
eligible voter in the community has voted, can the polls
be closed early?
change in the time of opening or closing the polls must
be precleared by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Your election ordinance should state the time for opening
and closing the polls. Though not specifically addressed
either Title 15 or Title 29 regarding time for opening or
closing polls in a municipal election held under Title
AS 15.15.080 provides for the time for
opening and closing the polls for elections conducted under
Polls are usually open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Any change that
affects voter rights, including closing early must be done
by ordinance and pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Fifteen minutes before the polls close, an election judge
announces that the polls will close in 15 minutes. When the closing time arrives, an
election judge announces that the polls are closed. If anyone is in line waiting to vote
when the election judge announces that the polls are closed, they are allowed to vote.
If someone arrives to vote after the announcement is made, they are not allowed to vote.
When and how are the ballots counted?
After the polls have closed and everyone who was in line has
voted, the ballots are counted as follows:
- Open the ballot box and separate the questioned/challenged
ballots. These go to the city clerk for processing.
- Sort the ballots into groups of 25. Count the total
number of ballots and record the number on the ballot "Tally
- One election judge reads the ballot and one election judge
tallies on the original tally sheet. The third election judge tallies on the duplicate
- Count only those marks that are properly made. Improper
marks or erasure marks invalidate only that section of the ballot where they appear. If
more than one name is marked for a candidate race, that section of the ballot can't be
counted. If no mark is made in a section, the rest of the properly marked ballot is
- Ballots are tallied directly on the tally sheets. Ballots
are counted in groups of 25. Each time a vote is called, a downward stroke is marked.
Mark every fifth vote with a diagonal stroke. Switch pen colors between each group of 25
and verify that both tally sheets match.
- If there are write-in candidates,
the candidate's name must be written in the blank space
AND the mark must be made next to the name.
- Count the tally marks for each candidate race and any
ballot propositions. Compare both tally sheets to make sure they match. Record
the totals on the ballot tally sheet and complete the "Election
Judge's Report of Election Results".
- Place the counted ballots in an envelope, seal the envelope,
and give it to the city clerk.
What happens if there has
to be a runoff election?
Under state law (AS
29.26.060), a runoff election must be held if no candidate
receives 40% of the vote for the office of mayor or a designated
seat, or if no candidate in an at large election receives
greater than 40% of the total votes cast divided by the number
of seats to be filled, unless otherwise provided by ordinance.
If a runoff election is required it must be conducted within
three weeks after certification of the election and notice
of the election must be published for at least five days before
the election date, unless otherwise provided by ordinance.
The runoff election is between only the two candidates receiving
the greatest number of votes for the seat.
If the day of the runoff election was precleared by the U.S.
Department of Justice with your city's election ordinance, another preclearance request is not required.
However, if the ordinance hasn't been precleared, or if the date of the runoff election wasn't
included in the election ordinance, the runoff election will have to be precleared since it's a
The runoff election is conducted in the same manner as the
regular election except that the ballot will contain only the 2 candidates receiving the
greatest number of votes for the seat and will have no provision for write-in votes.