The Anchorage Assembly voted unanimously to certify results of the 2018 municipal election at its weekly meeting Tuesday night, formally putting the muni's first vote-by-mail contest on the books with its highest-ever turnout.

More than 76,000 ballots from Anchorage's roughly 218,000 registered voters were sent in or dropped off at ballot boxes.

Looking back at the new vote-by-mail process, municipal clerk Barbara Jones feels it worked.

"I am thankful the Assembly certified the election," Jones said. "All in all, everything went really well. I think we had a steep learning curve to learn how to do vote-by-mail."

The transition is one the Assembly has had an eye on for quite some time.

"It was a lot of work in advance, we started talking about this, switching to voting by mail three years ago," Assembly member Pete Petersen said. "It's evolved over time, and we did go out-of-state to look at other jurisdictions where they have other vote-by-mails to see if we what we could learn and what we might be able to improve upon."

Now that we've finished out first vote by mail election, we're going to review and see what additional improvements we can make before the election next year."

While most Assembly members were pleased with the overall results, not everyone is convinced of the process moving forward.

"It sounds like I'm the only Assembly member who heard anything negative," said Assembly member Amy Demboski. "The biggest concerns I heard from people were identity theft. They were afraid of signing on the outside of the envelope. The other thing was people were worried about a person who has had only a little bit of training looking at signatures."

Out of all the ballots cast -- in which residents re-elected Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, filled three School Board members and decided on a dozen propositions -- only five ballots were targeted as possibly being tampered with.

"We've tried to make the election as transparent as possible," Jones said. "The election center is open for people to come and take a look at it and watch what we are doing during the election. The results show we had one challenge and four instances where someone other than the voter voted with their ballot. Each of those were investigated and the election commission rejected the ballots. We're working with the municipal attorney's office to decide what action to take with them going forward."

Jones says election workers already plan a few changes, including printing ballots' due dates in red and highlighting a requirement that a certified U.S. citizen has signed a ballot envelope.

Now that the election is certified, the elected officials involved will begin in their new roles. School Board members will be present at the May 7 meeting, and Berkowitz will be sworn in for his second three-year term in July.

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