Anchorage Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel will face a recall election on Oct. 26 after the Anchorage Assembly voted 10-0 on Aug. 27 to approve holding the election. Zaletel was excused from the vote, as it presented a conflict of interest.
Putting the recall on the ballot has been an 11-month process for Anchorage residents who are looking to remove Zaletel as their representative from District 4.
While Zaletel has endured intense criticism for many of her policy positions regarding homelessness, lockdowns and mandates, the actual recall petition claims that she is guilty of committing “misconduct in office” for ignoring a city mandate that limited indoor gatherings to 15 people or less.
Earlier this year, City Clerk Barbara Jones rejected the recall application, saying it did not meet legal requirements. This decision was ultimately reversed by the Anchorage Superior Court on appeal.
Jones then prepared the petition and recall advocates began gathering the needed signatures to put the recall question on the ballot.
The Anchorage recall ballots will be mailed out on Sept. 27.
Meanwhile the city proceeded to appeal the Superior Court’s decision to the Alaska Supreme Court, which ultimately sided with the recall advocates.
That exhausted the city’s legal options to block the recall through the courts, and sponsors proceeded to gather and submit 4,500 signatures, far more than the 2,468 (or 25% of voters in District) needed to put the recall question before voters.
During the Aug. 27 special meeting to approve the recall, City Clerk Barbara Jones expressed some concern that she and her staff were being overtaxed given that Anchorage has contracted with the City and Borough of Juneau to process their mail-in election this fall.
Jones said she worried that Anchorage voters would begin sending in their mail-in ballots while she was still counting the votes for the Juneau election – a process that won’t end until at least Oct. 19.
City Clerk Jones said she had never pulled off two city elections at the same time and admitted there is some risk associated with this.
The Anchorage recall ballots will be mailed out on Sept. 27, which means ballots from both Juneau and Anchorage will be coming in at the same time.
Jones said she would be able to pull it off, but said she may need more staff and security at the election headquarters, and poll watchers may need to be limited. She said it would be better to hold the election on Nov. 9 to avoid having to manage two elections from two different cities at the same time.
While both Assemblywomen Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy initially expressed support for a Nov. 9 date to ensure greater election integrity, it was clear that the liberal block of the Assembly wanted an election sooner rather than later.
Assemblywoman Austin Quinn-Davidson then accused Allard and Kennedy of planting seeds of doubt about the integrity of the election, claiming that they were “already starting to lay the groundwork that there is a problem.”
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Jones, however, said she had never pulled off two city elections at the same time and admitted there is some risk associated with this.
Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance quipped that there is “no election without any risk” and said she would support giving Jones all the staff and security she needed to pull off an Oct. 26 election.
Jones indicated that the special election would cost about $100,000, which prompted Assemblyman Christopher Constant to float the idea that in future recalls, the residents of that district should have to pay for the election rather than have it footed by the entire city.
By exacting a special tax levy from the district that approves a recall election, they would know that “they have to pay for it,” he said, adding that they would then have “skin in the game.”
“I think it would be fair,” Constant said. “I don’t know if it’s legal.”
The Assembly is expected to take up that issue at a later date to address future recalls.