Alaskans who show up to vote in the joint Mat-Su Borough and statewide election must wear a mask in order to cast a ballot at the Wasilla Public Library polling station.

Voters head to the polls in Wasilla on Oct. 22.

Local resident Mike Hensley walked into the library on Oct. 20, the first day of early in-person voting, only to be met by signs saying he was required to wear a mask in order to enter the polling station.

The Wasilla mandate is more stringent than COVID protocols for both the Mat-Su Borough and the Alaska Division of elections, both of which “strongly recommend” but do not require masks in order to vote in person.

There are two early voting stations in the Mat-Su, one at the borough building and the other at Wasilla’s library. Both locations were chosen by the Mat-Su Borough as early voting stations for the joint borough and state early in-person elections. The borough clerk’s office, however, confirmed that they are not requiring masks at the library.

Wasilla mayor Cottle said he has authority to enact mandates even when the borough and state don’t.

“It’s the city of Wasilla who makes the rules for the City of Wasilla,” a borough clerk clarified. “We don’t get to do that.”

The state, too, is not mandating masks for Wasilla voters. A staff member for the Division of Elections told the Watchman that the state is only encouraging masks.

Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai told the Watchman on Oct. 22 that state poll workers are neither trained nor responsible for enforcing local mask mandates (read more here).

A sign posted at the entrance of the Wasilla Library.

Wasilla’s COVID-19 mandates, which were put in place by Mayor Bert Cottle on July 31, require face masks for all staff and patrons in all city facilities, including the library. The only exceptions are for those younger than age two, people with medical conditions and the hearing impaired. Everyone else must mask up.

“It’s my building – my mandate,” Cottle said. “I’m not going to have somebody come in my building and get all my people infected because he didn’t wear a mask. I’m not denying anybody the right to vote, all I’m saying is you have options. You can do mail in. You can do drop in.”

As mayor, Cottle said he has authority to enact mandates even when the borough and state don’t.

“The borough does not have medical powers. I have medical powers,” he said. “In the governor’s mandate, he leaves the option open to cities and boroughs to do what they need to do.”

Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle

The State Division of Elections website says it “strongly encourages voters to wear facial coverings while inside a polling place and in cities where wearing a facial covering is mandated.”

Hensley, however, said Cottle’s mandate could end up suppressing conservative minded voters who disagree with his mask rules.

“I don’t wear masks for a multitude of reasons,” Hensley said. “People should be allowed to vote, whether they want to wear a mask or not.”

While Hensley has been told that he can drive to Palmer and vote where there are no mask mandates, he said this approach places yet another obstacle before voters.

 “I feel like it’s a big deal,” Hensley said, adding that he thinks the borough should have chosen a different location in Wasilla that could have accommodated voters like himself. “It felt to me like they are suppressing the conservative vote or just forcing people into compliance.”

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Wasilla mayor says voters can’t go to poll site unless they mask up

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Lance says:

    What a lowlife mayor they have there. I hope someday the conservatives get their act together in Wasilla and get rid of him.

    • Rhonda Stark says:

      Wow. Simply because he wants to protect voters and those working the polls. That is a bad thing? Wearing a mask is not keeping anyone from voting. It is not taking away any rights. And the mayor is ‘asking’, very emphatically, people to wear masks unless they truly and honestly cannot. How is that lowlife? How is that RINO?

      • Matt Myers says:

        This China Virus is treated like Ebola. It’s not. Don’t want the virus? Wear a magical mask yourself.
        People are willing to risk dying in other countries to vote and to protect people’s right to vote. Obviously that is not the case here.
        I doubt a small town mayor can bar people from a federal election. Either way. Just tell them you have a medical condition. Tell them that because of Hippa, you don’t have to tell them what the condition is, even if it is just that you are allergic to Bovine Scat.

  • Inatae says:

    He’s not running again.

  • RGR310152 says:

    “My building”, no that building belongs to the people of Wasilla King Cottle. What an entitled scumbag. It is absolutely voter suppression. If individuals are concerned with this so called “pandemic” they have “options”. What about the mayoral elections? What are the so called “options” there? You cannot go to palmer for that. The quicker wasilla sheds this waste of flesh the better. It is absolute voter suppression.

  • Mongo Like Candy says:

    Cottle has always been a closeted RINO if not an outright Progressive Commie!

  • Rhonda Stark says:

    Good grief wear a mask. And while you are at it please extinguish any cigarette before entering the building. . Yes, it is not much different. You are being asked to be respectful and mindful of others. I do not understand the stubborn, even narcissistic, obsession with making masks an issue of constitutional rights or freedom. That really is ridiculous. You wearing a mask protects others in case you are infected and might or might not know it.. Same goes for others that are protecting you. If you could care less about getting Covid great, but for some there are reasons to avoid contraction , whether it be vulnerable family members, health concerns, self employed ( we don’t have leave time), travel, etc. What is wrong with respecting that? As a self employed person, who is hoping to travel in a couple weeks, I greatly appreciate those courteously donning a mask.

    Also, if a business is asking you to please wear one, respect the business. Those of us that work in the private sector do not have the protection of the government employed and we very much would like to stay working.

    Lastly —- such respect is indeed scriptural.
    Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    It is about the preciousness of others.

    • Chad says:

      Rhonda, if what you’re saying is true then nobody should ever go out in public without a mask ever again. There is never going to be a time where there is not a risk of humans spreading potentially lethal viruses to each other. Are we all responsible for the millions of people that have died from other viruses because we weren’t wearing masks in the past? It’s reasonable to believe this virus is never going away even with a “vaccine”. We have “vaccines” for the flu and we still have to deal with it every year. The vulnerable must protect themselves. If I’m deathly allergic to peanut butter it’s not the public’s responsibility to prevent me from having contact with it. If you really believe in masks I sure hope you wear one for the rest of your life. Using your logic I really can’t think of a time that we wouldn’t be putting the vulnerable at risk by not wearing masks.

    • MMD says:

      Requiring masks is requiring people to participate in a superstition. There is no valid scientific evidence that wearing a mask will protect anyone from spreading or catching any virus; even the CDC had to admit recently that the vast majority of people testing positive for SARCS-CoV-19 wore masks exactly as recommended by that same CDC. (Anchorage, where the vast majority of people keep their faces covered everywhere they go, and have been doing so for months, is a striking demonstration of the impotence of mask-wearing.) And it defies logic to argue that a minuscule virus, far smaller than the aperture in cloth or medical masks, carried in aerosol droplets also smaller than mask apertures, can pass one way and not the other through cloth. Thinking “the mask protects you, not me” is absurd. Robust scientific evidence stretching as far back as 2015, previous to the intense politicization of mask research, shows masks do nothing to prevent viral spread in hospital, home or community settings. (Yet they do increase the risk of other health problems in the wearer.)
      Basically, it is magical thinking to believe that masks do anything significant to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-19, or any other cold or flu virus. It is outrageous that anyone would be required to participate in a superstition in order to participate in their civic duty to vote. And there are “options” for those who are afraid to go out in public due to physical or mental reasons. Unfortunately, those options include voting practices that are being shown to increase the temptation and incidence of voter fraud… and I do not think that is coincidental.
      Yes, human life is precious. So is Truth. In fact, Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life – gave His most precious Life for the Truth. It is not kindness to encourage people’s fear or superstitious beliefs, and the mask superstition is not only a lie, it is also physically unhealthy. I will not participate in the lie.

      • I certainly agree with you on most of this except for voting. What superstition taught you that political voting is a “civic duty”?
        Especially for Christians who are supposed to claim “No King but Christ” except for their supposed loyalty to the US government, which, is nothing but an evil kingdom of man.
        Oh well.

    • Mike Hensley says:

      There are multiple reasons why one would justifiably refuse to wear a mask at any time or anywhere. 2 of those reasons were touched on by Chad and MMD. 1.) Conservatives believe in personal accountability and responsibility, and if you should feel a health risk exists, then it is your responsibility to do what is necessary to protect yourself and not virtue signal what others should do based on how you feel. 2.) We don’t live by lies. 3.) When government can tell you that you have to where something it is a dangerous slope which has dangerous implications for a free society. Where is your star Jew?, where are your papers? You seem to have assimilated business with government. These are seperate arguments. A business absolutely has a right to make their own rules, it’s their business, after all you can choose to not give them your business. It is a completely different animal when the government tells you that you have to wear something. As far as invoking the bible passage to establish moral authority or virtue signal, it could be argued that it is uncompassionate to force individuals to do something that goes against their personal set of values. More to the point, as conservatives we believe in the most compassionate action as one that maximizes liberty, allowing for self reliance. This much more important than any virus used as a political football. There are many other reasons why one would feel strongly about not wearing a mask. You health is your responsibilty, not the government’s and certainly not mine.

    • That’s very nice except that it has been proven over and over again that masks do not stop the spread of a virus. Never have. If so, why did the CDC report on infected people they just came out with say that people who “always or almost always” wear a mask had an infection rate of 85%? And the people who “never wear a mask” were at a 2% rate?
      Masks don’t work for a virus and never will. If they do work, gladly wear one yourself and don’t be a busybody telling others what to do. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
      26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, – Matthew 20:25-26
      As far as the masks are concerned, from the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons “Filter efficiency was measured across a wide range of small particle sizes (0.02 to 1 µm) at 33 and 99 L/min.
      All the cloth masks and materials had near zero efficiency at 0.3 µm, a particle size that easily penetrates into the lung (SARS-CoV-2 is 0.125 µm)
      Efficiency for the entire range of particles
      T-shirts — 10%
      Scarves — 10% to 20%
      Cloth masks — 10% to 30%
      Sweatshirts — 20% to 40%
      Towels — 40%”
      They don’t stop the spread of a respiratory virus. That’s just scientific fact.
      And besides, the basic element of freedom and Liberty, is to follow ones own conscience, who I would like to know, are you to be another persons conscience and decide for them whether this violates their freedom of conscience?
      As far as the seriousness of the virus, we know that only the elderly and those with certain health conditions are at risk with the virus, and for the rest of humanity, it’s no problem. In fact, according to the CDC, if you are under 70, the risk from Covid-19 is less that the flu. Another scientific fact.
      Again, feel free to wear one yourself, but don’t tell others how to live their life and try to make out like people who don’t believe like you are grandmother killers who wantonly are out to kill.
      I don’t believe in political voting even, and this is outrageous. Someone in Wasilla should immediately take this to court.
      Also, what I would suggest, is go to the voting place you are going to and walk right in and vote. Alaska health mandates do NOT hold the power of law, just as the mayor can not arbitrarily create his own law out of thin air. We must push back against these mini Maoist who think their simple opinions are law. That’s not the way the American process works.
      Push back folks, don’t listen to someone who thinks they can create law, or like this jackass mayor thinks, he is the law. Force the issue.
      For those of you who believe voting is some precious right, and refuse to wear a mask, go vote without your mask. Is the mayor going to arrest you? Haha nope. He can’t do a dang thing to you.
      “I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces“
      Politics of Obedience – 1552 – Etienne de La Boetie

  • Theresa says:

    Drat! No more Zillow home searches in Wasilla for me! I won’t trade one Berkowitz for another!

  • Melissa Roberts says:

    The best way to have handled this is to have masks available for all those who don’t show up with one, instead of telling them that they should go vote somewhere else..

  • Michael Alexander says:

    Remember this incident if he is stupid enough to run for Borough Mayor next year. Just because your family homesteaded in the valley, doesn’t make you royalty or smart.

  • Matt Myers says:

    Those that believe in magical masks (an N95 mask stopping a virus is like throwing sand through a chain link fence. Cotton masks are even a more hilarious solution.) can protect themselves. Wear your own damned mask.

  • Jordan says:

    My body, my choice.
    Or does that only apply to murdering the unborn. . .
    -Face masks are for scared sheep addicted to hysteria.