Who is responsible for preparing
for the election and making sure it runs smoothly?
state law (AS
the city clerk is supervisor of elections and is responsible
for administering all municipal elections. The council,
or manager having oversight of the clerk is responsible for
ensuring the clerk's duties are carried out, and members
the public are ultimately responsible for ensuring that municipal
officials execute local laws.
information should the election ordinance address?
ordinance should cover all the steps required to conduct
a fair and impartial election. An election
ordinance checklist is available in the additional
of this chapter to check your ordinance to ensure the important
points are addressed. A sample election ordinance is available
in the "sample
code of ordinances" section.
Is there help available for
Yes. If your local election ordinance
and/or this section do not address the issue, the State of
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.
Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks and Alaska
Municipal League may also provide support in some instances.
When is preclearance needed
from the U.S. Department of Justice?
that affects or has the potential to affect voting rights
must be precleared with the U.S.
Department of Justice (DOJ). Some examples of changes
that need approval include: special election dates, change
in the regular election date, changes in polling times or
places, changes in election procedures such as a run-off
or majority vote, changes in length of terms, changes in
ballot counting procedures, etc. DOJ generally requires
to review and approve changes, so be sure to allow enough
time for review by submitting any preclearance request
before the scheduled event. Sample preclearance letters are
available in the Additional Resources
section below addressing the most common situations requiring
Who is eligible to run for elected municipal
Any person who
- is registered to vote in
state elections at a residence address in the borough or
city at least 30 days before the election;
- has been a resident of the
municipality for 30 days immediately preceding the election;
- is not disqualified under
Article V of the State
Constitution or AS
29.20.140, a municipality may adopt an ordinance
providing term limits or residency requirements for
members of its governing
body. Though this hasn't been spelled out in statute, an
Alaska Supreme Court decision held that the three-year
requirement authorized in this statute was excessive [Peloza
v Freas (871 P.2d 687 (Alaska 1994)]. As a result
court decision, the residency standard is now one year. There
are no term limits or limitations on the number of consecutive
terms allowed unless an ordinance that imposes such limits
has been adopted and ratified by the voters of the municiaplity.
Can a person run for or hold
more than one elective office at the same time?
A person may be nominated or declare
candidacy for and occupy more than one office, except a borough
mayor may not also serve as a member of the assembly, nor
may a mayor of a first class city serve as a council member.
29.26.020(b)) Serving as mayor or council member while
serving on the school board or a local advisory board are
examples of occupying more than one office.
What happens after a candidate
submits a declaration of candidacy or nominating petition?
When a person submits a nominating petition
or a declaration of candidacy,
the municipal clerk reviews the document for accuracy and
completeness. Under AS 39.50.020, a candidate for municipal
office must file a financial disclosure statement when they
file for office, unless the municipality has exempted itself
from the financial disclosure requirement. Contact the Alaska
Public Offices Commission (APOC)
if you are not sure if this is required. The municipal clerk
keeps the original disclosure statement, which must be available
for public inspection upon request, and sends a copy of the
disclosure statement to APOC.
The clerk should then check the voter registration
list and local code of ordinances to find out if the candidate meets the qualifications
to hold office. If any problems are identified during this review and/or additional
information is required, the clerk should send a letter to the candidate explaining what is needed. A
sample letter requesting additional information is available in the Additional Resources
How do you know which elected offices need to be
29.20.150) provides for a term of three years for
members of a governing body, unless an ordinance is adopted
for a different term not to exceed four years. The mayor's
term in a first
class city is also limited to three years unless a local ordinance
extends it to four years (AS
29.20.230). Most municipalities have chosen three-year
terms that are staggered to prevent all seats on a governing
body from becoming vacant at the same time. This information
contained in the section of the ordinance addressing the rules
for governing bodies, not in the election ordinance.
Each seat on a governing body must be subject to re-election
when the term for
that seat has been completed, or if an appointment occurred
to fill a vacancy.
What special rules apply when someone is appointed
to a vacant seat?
member of the governing body was appointed to fill a vacancy,
the appointed member serves only until the next regular
29.20.180 and .280). The appointed seat is then placed on the ballot
and the term for the seat is whatever time was remaining
for the person initially elected to that seat. In other words,
the election is to fill the seat only for the "unexpired" term of the
seat. For example, if a person is appointed to a seat in the
middle of the second year of a three-year term, that seat
would come up for election at the end of the second year and
the term would be for the one year remaining of the original term.
When does election notice have to occur and what
information has to be included in the notice?
State law (AS
29.26.030) requires that a municipality give
at least 20 days notice for an election. Some municipalities
require longer notice. Check your ordinances to ensure
proper notice. Your election ordinance should also describe the
information that needs to be included in the notice. At
a minimum, the election notice should state:
the election is general, special or runoff;
of the election;
of the polling place(s);
the polling place(s) will open and close;
to be filled;
statement describing voter qualifications;
statement describing absentee voting procedure;
for filing declarations of candidacy and nominating
statement of any questions or propositions to be placed
on the ballot.
not required by statute, it is a good idea to complete
of posting documenting the time and place
the notice was posted. This will provide proof of proper
notice in case it becomes an issue later on. The affidavit
should be signed by one witness and attested by the city
clerk. See the ‘Additional Resources’ section
at the end of this chapter for sample notices and affidavit
Who determines what goes on the ballot?
The municipal clerk or other election official is
responsible for preparing all official ballots using the procedure spelled out in local
ordinance and information from candidate nomination petitions, declarations of
candidacy, certified initiative petitions, certified referendum petitions, or
propositions adopted by the governing body.
The governing body may place other questions on the
ballot. When the governing body wants a question placed on the ballot, the members
direct the clerk to do so in one of three ways: by passing a motion, by adopting a
resolution, or by adopting an ordinance. Your local ordinances or state statute will
determine which method is used.
The results of
questions placed on the ballot through a referendum petition
or initiative petition are binding if the question passes.
When preparing the ballot it is important to remember
to provide enough instruction on the ballot to ensure
the voter can fill out the ballot correctly and the vote
can be counted. As an example, spoiled ballot instructions
and the requirement
for marking the box next to a write-in candidate should
Is an election held if no one files to run for
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, prepare the ballot with lines so
voters can write-in the name of the person they are
casting their vote for. Under state law (AS
29.60.290) a municipality must conduct a regular election within the
prior fiscal year to qualify for state shared revenues.
Where does the voter registration list come from?
The State Division
of Elections maintains the voter registration lists
and will provide copies to a municipality upon request.
This list is a requirement for verifying
on election day. You should request two separate lists - one
to verify candidate eligibility and one to verify voter eligibility.
A good rule of thumb is to request
a voter registration list 45 days prior to an election to confirm
whether a candidate is eligible to run for office, and a second
list 30 days prior to the election. The
second list is used to confirm whether a person is eligible to
vote. The Division of Elections has the final say on whether
someone is eligible to vote.
How do residents register to vote?
A person may register to vote on a form provided by
Division of Elections using one of the following methods:
- in person before a registration
official or through a voter registration agency such as
DMV, Department of Health and Social Services, or Commerce;
- by mail; or
- by fax.
You may request an application by mail from
a Division of Elections Office or get a Voter
Registration Application from the Division of Elections.
A person may also use a Voter Registration Application to
show a name change, address change, or party membership change,
per AS 15.07.010-200 (See The
Alaska Administrative Code).
How is residency determined?
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 Registration list.
The Division of Elections determines a voter's
residency under the rules spelled out in AS 15.05.020. Contact the Division
of Elections if there are questions about residency.
How are the polling places and the boundaries for
Division of Elections can decide or change
precinct boundaries and polling places within the boundary.
(AS 15.10.020) A Municipality may not change the polling place
without first notifying the Division of Elections and receiving
approval. If an emergency prohibits use of the
polling site on election day, choose another site with the best
possible public access and notify the Division of Elections
Can election officials all be registered to one
Municipal elections are non-partisan. AS
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).
What steps need to be taken before the election for
A person who will be away from the municipality on
election day or is otherwise unable to come to the polling place on election day may
request an absentee ballot either in person, by mail, or by personal representative.
Municipal timelines for requesting absentee ballots will differ so check your election ordinance to find out
the time frame for your municipality. If your ordinance does not have this information,
consider amending your ordinance to include it. The "Sample Election Ordinance" contains
appropriate language. Your election ordinance should describe the procedure for voting an
absentee ballot. At a minimum the process should involve:
- An absentee ballot application and application
- Ballot preparation instructions;
- Ballot envelope and affidavit preparation
- Tracking procedure;
- Counting procedure.
Before absentee voting can begin,
the clerk must have the election ballots, "absentee ballot
applications," "absentee ballot oath and affidavit envelopes,"
"special needs ballot envelopes," plain white secrecy envelopes,
and the Master Voter Registration List. If the Master Voter
Registration List is not available, keep a list of all absentee
ballots requested. (Also see the Division of Elections' Absentee
How does absentee voting
occur in person?
who is unable to come to the polling place on election day
may vote early and cast an absentee ballot in person at the
municipality's office. The municipality's election
ordinance should describe the procedure for obtaining and voting
an absentee ballot in person.
- To vote absentee in person, the voter does
not need to complete an application. However, the voter
completes the "absentee ballot oath and affidavit envelope"
in front of a voting official (usually the city clerk).
The voting official checks identification and witnesses
the voter's signature. The voting official also completes
the rest of the "affidavit envelope." If no voting official
or other official authorized to attest an affidavit is available,
two witnesses may sign.
- The voter signs the Master
Voter Registration List. A note is included on the Master
Voter Registration List that the person voted absentee in
person. This note is highlighted (using a bright colored
highlighting pen works well). The voting official gives
the voter the ballot and a plain white "secrecy envelope."
- If the Master Voter Registration
List is not available, keep a list of absentee ballot voter
names. (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 15.07.010.)
- The voter votes the ballot
and puts it in the secrecy envelope, then the clerk ensures
that the voter places the secrecy envelope with ballot in
the "affidavit envelope" and seals it.
- The voting official stores
the ballot in a secure place until the day after the election.
How does absentee voting occur by mail?
A voter may
request an absentee ballot by mail. The municipality's election
ordinance should describe the procedure for obtaining and
voting an absentee ballot by mail.
- To vote absentee by mail, a voter must request the
absentee packet in writing. When a voting official (usually the city clerk) receives the written
request, an "absentee voter application" is given or mailed to the voter.
- The voter completes the application and returns it to the
voting official. A ballot, a plain
white secrecy envelope and an "absentee ballot oath and affidavit envelope" are issued to
or mailed to the voter.
- A note is included on the Master Voter Registration
List that the person voted absentee by mail. This note is highlighted (using a bright
colored highlighting pen works well).
- If the Master Voter Registration List is not available,
keep a log of absentee ballot voter names.
(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 15.07.010.)
- The voter completes the ballot, puts it in the
secrecy envelope, then seals it in the "affidavit envelope." The "affidavit
envelope" is signed by the voter and two witnesses. The "affidavit envelope" may also
serve as a mailing envelope to the city.
- When the voted ballot is received, the city clerk stores it in
a secure place. The ballot must be postmarked by election day.
How does absentee voting occur by personal
A person unable to
travel to the polling place on election day may use a
personal representative to obtain an
absentee ballot. A
personal representative physically carries the application
and absentee ballot from the polling place to the voter,
then back to the ballot box.
personal representative applies at the municipality's
office or polling place on behalf of the voter. A
"special needs ballot envelope" is issued to the personal representative
to deliver to the voter.
- The voter and personal
representative complete the "special needs ballot envelope" and it
is returned to the voting official (usually the municipal
- The voting official completes the "special needs
ballot envelope" and provides a ballot and a plain white secrecy envelope to the personal
representative, along with the "special needs envelope."
- A note is made on the Master Voter Registration
List that the person voted absentee by a personal representative. This note is
highlighted (using a bright colored highlighting pen works well).
- If the voter is not on the Master Voter Registration
List, a note is made that the voter received a "special needs ballot envelope."
- The personal representative delivers the ballot and
envelopes to the voter. The voter places their completed ballot into the secrecy envelope,
which in turn is placed in the "special needs ballot envelope."
- The personal representative then returns the
envelope to the voting official who completes the information on the envelope and
places it in the ballot box.