Preparing for An Election

Revised Monday, July 01, 2013

Introduction

State law AS 29.20.380 provides that the municipal clerk shall “administer all municipal elections.” The clerk acts as the supervisor of elections and organizes and runs the election. Municipal elections typically take place once a year on the first Tuesday in October, although a municipality may have a different day established by ordinance.

The Alaska constitution and state statutes allow local governments a great deal of flexibility in how elections are conducted. State law does, however, require that a governing body prescribe rules for conducting an election (AS 29.26.010). To conduct a successful election, the clerk should be aware of specific duties regarding the election as prescribed by your local ordinances, Alaska Statutes Title 29 (Municipal Government) and Title 15 (Election Code).

For information on what to do during the election and what happens after the election or for special elections topics, see the other LOGON pages Conducting an Election, Certifying Election Results, or the Special Election Topic you are interested in, such as Local Option, Initiative, Referendum or Recall.


Narrative

Municipal clerks have a lot to do to ensure a well-run election and preparing months ahead of time will save major headaches. An election calendar is a very useful tool as election preparations occur. The sample election calendar can, and should, be modified according to local municipal code. The tasks identified on the calendar are more detailed than this website provides and you are encouraged to download the Excel Sample Election Calendar and the Plain English Guide to Elections, found in the Additional Resources section below, for more specific information. It is recommended to begin preparations 90 days before an election, for an October election that would mean starting the process in early July. While that may seem too early, new clerks and election workers have come to appreciate the extra time.

The clerk is responsible for: obtaining the master voter registration lists from the Division of Elections; reviewing candidate eligibility; preparing and printing the election ballots, absentee voter documents, and personal representative documents; preparing and posting the election notices; administering absentee voting; appointing and training election judges; and preparing the polling place.

Your municipality should have an elections ordinance that establishes the basic guidelines for holding local elections. The elections ordinance usually establishes: candidates qualifications; voter qualifications; duties of the clerk, election workers, and canvass board; nomination procedures for candidates; requirements for notice of elections, election equipment, and ballots; election procedures; absentee voting procedures; procedures for compiling election results and certifying elections; procedures for contesting elections; and any other rules and procedures regarding local elections. A Sample Election Code is available to download for use to compare and contrast to your current code.

Any change that affects or has the potential to affect voting rights must be pre-cleared with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Some examples of changes that need approval include: special election dates, changes in the regular election date, changes in polling times or places, changes in election procedures such as a run-off election or majority vote, changes in length of terms, changes in ballot counting procedures. DOJ generally requires 60 days to review and approve changes, so be sure to allow enough time for review by submitting any preclearance request well before the scheduled event. Sample Pre-clearance letters are available for download.

When a person submits a nominating petition or a declaration of candidacy, the 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) at 1-800-478-4176 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.

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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 Candidacy Acceptance or Rejection letter requesting additional information is available in the Additional Resources section below.

Any person is eligible to run for elected office 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; and is not disqualified under Article V of the State Constitution or AS 29.26.050.

Under 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 residency requirement authorized in this statute was excessive [Peloza v Freas (871 P.2d 687 (Alaska 1994)]. As a result of this 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 municipality.

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:

  • Whether the election is general, special or runoff; Date of the election;
  • Location of the polling place(s); Time the polling place(s) will open and close;
  • Offices to be filled; A statement describing voter qualifications;
  • A statement describing absentee voting procedure;
  • Time for filing declarations of candidacy and nominating petitions;
  • A statement of any questions or propositions to be placed on the ballot.

Though not required by statute, it is a good idea to complete an affidavit 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. A sample Affidavit of Posting Election Notice can be found in the Additional Resources.

The municipal clerk is responsible for creating the ballot according to the timeline, paying close attention to the last days that a candidate can file for office. Some local laws establish a specific format or particular way candidate’s names are to be printed. A sample ballot should be created and proof read multiple times over the course of a few days, two neat tricks to catch errors are to read it out loud and read it from bottom to top.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Additional Resources

Publications:

  • Plain English Guide to Elections
  • Municipal Election Questions Handbook
  • Municipal Elections Video (a 14 minute video)

Sample documents:

  • Absentee ballot application
  • Affidavit absentee ballot return envelope
  • Affidavit for questioned ballot
  • APOC exempt municipalities
  • APOC municipal exemption statement
  • Ballot sample
  • Candidacy acceptance or rejection letter
  • Declaration of candidacy form
  • Election calendar (Excel)
  • Election ordinance checklist
  • Nominating petition form
  • Notice of election: Declaration of candidacy method
  • Notice of election: Nomination petition method
  • Notice to register to vote
  • Oath of election judge
  • Personal representative form
  • Preclearance local option election
  • Preclearance special election
  • Sample election code

Recommended web site search topics:

  • Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks (AAMC)
  • Alaska Division of Elections
  • Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC)
  • Infobase Alaska Statutes (for state laws and administrative code)
  • U.S. Civil Rights Division, Voting Rights Section

Applicable Laws and Regulations

Alaska Constitution - Article V

  • Section 1 - age and 30-day residency requirement
  • Section 2 - prohibitions against being allowed to vote
  • Section 3 - methods of voting, secret ballot
  • Section 4 - authorizes the legislature to prescribe registration procedures and establish voting precincts and election districts.

Alaska Administrative Code

  • 3 AAC 18.010(d)(1) election required for Community Revenue Sharing payment

Alaska Statutes

  • AS 04.16.070 alcohol sales on election day
  • AS 15.05.020 determination of residency rules
  • AS 15.05.030 loss and restoration of voting rights
  • AS 15.07.010-200 voter registration
  • AS 15.10.020 determination of precinct boundaries
  • AS 15.60.010 definitions (moral turpitude)
  • AS 29.06.320 charter provisions, election districts, nonpartisan municipal elections
  • AS 29.10.200 limitation on authority to enact provisions other than those provided by statute
  • AS 29.20.060-120 assembly composition and apportionment
  • AS 29.20.130 city council composition AS 29.20.140 qualifications of members of governing bodies
  • AS 29.20.140 qualifications of members of governing bodies
  • AS 29.20.150 term of office
  • AS 29.20.170 vacancy in office
  • AS 29.20.180 filling a vacancy
  • AS 29.20.220-240 election, term, and qualification for office of mayor
  • AS 29.20.280 vacancy in the office of mayor
  • AS 29.20.300-310 election of board members
  • AS 29.20.380 administration of municipal elections, compliance with the Federal Voting Rights Act
  • AS 29.20.470 election on manager plan
  • AS 29.20.520 repeal of manager plan
  • AS 29.20.630 election of state or school district employee to municipal office
  • AS 29.25.020 ordinance procedure
  • AS 29.26.010 requirement for governing body to prescribe rules for conducting an election, election board and judges
  • AS 29.26.020 requirement for ordinance providing for nomination or declaration of candidacy procedure, prohibition on serving in more than one office
  • AS 29.26.030 notice of elections, requirement for 20 days notice
  • AS 29.26.040 election date and ordinance requirement for prescribing a different date
  • AS 29.26.050 voter qualifications, ordinance requirement for enacting local election district or service area restrictions
  • AS 29.26.060 runoff election, ordinance requirement
  • AS 29.26.070 election contest and appeal, ordinance requirement
  • AS 29.26.240-360 recall
  • AS 39.50.010-200 financial disclosure requirements for elected officials