City clerk’s report on Anchorage mayor’s runoff says election officials faced ‘unprecedented harassment’
A new report from the city clerk of Anchorage describes the second round of the mayoral election as marked by “close scrutiny”, “unprecedented harassment of election officials” and “the dissemination of disinformation to sow distrust among the electors”.
The Anchorage Assembly certified the results of the second round on Tuesday, claiming Dave Bronson as mayor-elect. Bronson defeated opponent and Coven Forrest Dunbar by 45,937 votes to 44,744 votes, or 50.66% to 49.34%. Bronson takes office on July 1.
Prior to the certification of any election in the City of Anchorage, the City Secretary’s office provides the Assembly with a report on the results and conduct of the election.
In the report, presented on Tuesday, the clerk’s office portrayed a successful election staged by city officials and election workers. But he also describes incidents, including “disrespectful, harassing and threatening behavior” towards election officials by some campaign observers and members of the public.
Bronson supporters – in comments made on social media, in public testimony at Assembly meetings, and in comments on a Conservative website – have criticized the city’s clerk’s handling of the elections and the system of vote by mail from Anchorage.
The report does not say which campaign observers and supporters were behind the behavior. City Clerk Barbara Jones was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday and Assistant Elections Secretary Erika McConnell turned to Jones when asked why the report did not attribute the behavior to parties or campaigns specific.
The clerk’s report said that following the spread of “inaccurate and misleading election disinformation,” a comment on social media said election officials “should be publicly executed.” Other comments on social media called for the sacking of election officials. The report does not say on what social media site or in what context the comments were made.
The incidents included election officials “docked in the parking lot,” and officials being watched, photographed and their license plate numbers recorded as they walked to and from work.
“While it may be legal to photograph people and cars in public spaces, the intensity and tone appear to be geared toward intimidating officials rather than a legitimate goal,” the report said.
The report also claims that false information about the election was disseminated on social media, a local blog and a radio talk show, including false allegations that blank ballots entered the electoral center the following weekend. on polling day and suggestions that “other illegal activities occurred and were involved.” election officials. “
“Inaccurate and false statements about electoral processes, including photos and videos taken by observers inside the electoral center, were published in an online gossip column and discussed on talk radio – none of them they only contacted election officials for information or confirmation of statements, suggesting the purpose of the coverage was to sow disinformation and distrust of the electoral process, ”the report said.
Across the country, voter confidence in electoral systems has declined following former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 presidential election was a fraud, sowing mistrust of the election more generally, especially among Republicans.
Public records of protests filed during the election by Bronson observers show a number of the incidents described in the report involved Bronson observers and supporters. The majority of the registered observers were with Bronson.
At one point, Bronson’s team parked an RV outside the election center for 24/7 observation of the building.
In response to questions about the report, the behavior of campaign observers, and whether Bronson has concerns about the integrity of the election, Bronson’s campaign made the following statement:
“We understand the difficulty of having public control over the election office, but this type of discussion needs to take place in order to improve our voting practices. Mayor-elect Bronson is eager to improve the process.
“When the behaviors were brought to the attention of the Bronson campaign, we would discuss the issue with the volunteer (s) and work to help provide a safe environment for all. We thank the electoral team for having the ballots certified during the two-week period, ”the statement read.
Campaigns can have up to four observers in the electoral center during the processing and counting of ballots and other electoral activities. Observers can challenge decisions during the process, for example whether or not a ballot should be counted if it has been marked by a voter in an unusual way.
The clerk’s office report claims that many of the challenges posed by observers fell short of a real basis for a challenge.
Election officials were inundated with questions and challenges posed by more than 95 registered campaign observers, many of whom had not been properly trained and appeared not to have read the observer manual, according to the report.
This slowed down the processing of ballots and overloaded election officials, according to the report.
Going forward, the electoral team will limit the number of registered observers and organize the required training itself rather than allowing candidates and campaigns to train observers, the report said.
“Many observers behaved as if the purpose of their role was to denounce the electoral process and election officials, instead of working in cooperation with election officials, whose duty is to obey the law and fulfill the law. their functions to the best of their ability. ensure a fair and honest election. Observers seemed frustrated with a preconceived PERCEPTION of what was going on at the Electoral Center and home voting / mail voting, ”the report said.
The report says that at some point after polling day Jones banned an observer from returning to the polling center.
“… The election official reported that the observer said words to the effect that ‘I bet when you come home at night you are yelling at your husband’. This same observer approached another election official at the end of the day, and she reported that he had said words to the effect that he “would come back to harass her more tomorrow,” “the report said.
Jones did not name the Observer’s campaign in the report.
Dunbar and his campaign manager said a Bronson observer was not allowed to return to the constituency. The Bronson campaign twice did not respond to questions about this incident.
The fervor of the municipal authorities the election has spread in public testimony at recent assembly meetings. Some thanked election officials while others expressed mistrust and doubts about the integrity of the Anchorage elections.
Bernadette Wilson, former Bronson campaign manager, spoke at a special meeting last week about her dissatisfaction with the recount of two school board seats and told members: “Either your secretary is incompetent, is overhead, or it’s done intentionally.
“The reality is that the integrity of this electoral process has been in question for years. And now it’s showing, ”Wilson said.
Dunbar, at that same Assembly meeting, called comments against Jones, the clerk, “defamatory.”
At Tuesday night’s assembly meeting, Carolyn Hall, who served as spokesperson for former mayor Ethan Berkowitz and interim mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson, decried Wilson and others’ comments highlighting doubts the integrity and conduct of Jones.
“She is the most neutral, fair and impartial municipal worker I know of,” said Hall, who previously worked in the municipal elections office. “Barbara gives absolutely equal treatment to all applicants, whether they have a broad base of support like Mr. Bronson or Mr. Dunbar or those with little support. She does not see political parties and does not express her opinion on politics. She runs a tight ship. Barbara and her staff are fair, honest and extremely competent. They run transparent elections, work incredibly hard, and care deeply about this community.
Dunbar, in his Facebook post conceding the election, said his campaign watchers had witnessed “aggressive, confrontational and downright bizarre behavior by Bronson supporters and staff towards constituency workers.” .
“… the Bronson campaign strangely casts doubt on the election they themselves are winning,” Dunbar said. “Likely, this is a prelude to a concerted attempt to repeal Anchorage’s mail-in voting system, despite the demonstrable success of that same system, as evidenced by this year’s record turnout.”
Bronson announced his transition team this week and released a document outlining plans to review areas of municipal policy. The city’s postal voting system is not specified in this document.
The turnout for the second round hit a new high of 38.36% with 90,816 ballots, according to the report. Of those voters, 95.8% voted from home, using the mail or a drop box to hand in their ballots, rather than voting at a polling center in person.
“Despite these examples of the scrutiny of elections, the spread of disinformation to sow distrust among voters, and the unprecedented harassment of election officials, including taking photos and videos of them and their cars and ( threatening to look at you, the Anchorage Vote at Home / Vote by Mail system has been flexible, consistent and accurate, and has thrived with record turnout and voter turnout, ”the report says.