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Local Government Resource Desk

Elections

Certifying Election Results

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Introduction

Once the election is over, there are still a few things that need to occur before the results can be finalized. Indeed, the election is not completed until after it is certified and elected candidates qualify and take office. Though protections are in place to guarantee a voter's privacy, the various administrative steps in the election process are public. This means anyone interested in being present for the preliminary count or certification of the count can be, and the public must be provided notice of when these actions will occur so that anyone interested may attend.

With the exception of certain minimum requirements, the Alaska constitution and state statutes allow local governments a great deal of flexibility in how they conduct their local elections. State law does, however, require that a governing body prescribe rules for conducting an election (AS 29.26.010). Your municipality's election ordinance will explain the election process for your community and deadlines for finalizing the local election. If a municipality fails to follow the local election ordinance and applicable state law in conducting an election, the election could be voided and a new election ordered.

For information on what to do to prepare for the election or how to conduct the election, see the LOGON chapters 'Preparing for a General Municipal Election' and 'Conducting a General Municipal Election'. See the LOGON chapter 'Special Election Topics' for the subjects you are interested in, such as 'Local Option', 'Initiative', 'Referendum', or 'Recall'.

Narrative

The days immediately following the election are the times that the clerk will investigate any questioned, challenged, or absentee ballots by calling the Division of Elections. The separate LOGON chapter 'Conducting a Municipal Election' discusses what to do when a voter is not on the precinct register and how they cast a questioned ballot. The Division of Elections will research the eligibility of the voters to cast a ballot. Some typical reasons that that a voter did not appear on the precinct register is that they registered to vote close to the 30 day minimum requirement and did not get on the list or they are still registered to vote in another precinct. The Division of Elections will provide information on each questioned and absentee ballot. The clerk should then provide this information to the canvass committee. No ballots should be opened at this time.

A defeated candidate or any qualified voter who believes there may have been an error in the vote count may contest the election and request a recount. Likewise, any qualified voter who believes there has been misconduct, fraud, or corruption of an election official may contest the election. The request must be presented in writing (see AS 26.26.070(b)), before, or at least at the time of, the first canvass of ballots by the canvas committee. The affidavit should include:

  • a statement explaining why it is believed that the votes were not correctly counted;
  • the particular office, seat, or proposition that is questioned;
  • a statement that the person making the request is a candidate or a qualified voter; and
  • the signature of the candidate or voter seeking a recount.

If the reason for the request is a belief that the count of votes was in error, and no prohibited practices are alleged, the governing body directs the mayor and municipal clerk, to conduct a recount and report the results back to the governing body. Note that the governing body may elect to appoint a recount board to conduct the recount in place of the mayor and clerk. If prohibited election practices are alleged, the governing body directs the mayor and clerk, or recount board, to investigate and, if warranted, to conduct a recount.

If the recount is done, the mayor and clerk, or recount board reports the official election results to the governing body. If the results are changed by the recount, the clerk, at the direction of the governing body, prepares a new “certification of election” for the candidates and provides a copy to the governing body. The recount expenses may be billed to the party requesting the recount if the recount fails to revert a result of the election, or the difference between the winning and losing vote is more than two percent (see AS 29.26.070(d)). A sample “affidavit to contest election” is provided in the Should a person be dissatisfied with the canvass committee’s determination of the contest of election the opportunity to appeal is within 10 days after the declaration of the election results to the superior court in the judicial district in which the municipality is located, per AS 29.26.070(e). After that 10-day period, the results are conclusive and valid.

The governing body is usually the canvass committee, although local ordinance may state otherwise. The purpose of the canvass committee is to examine the election results and certify them. The canvass committee reviews the report of preliminary election results and the absentee and questioned ballots based on the information provided to them from the clerk and Division of Elections. The canvass committee authorizes the opening of any votes determined eligible (while still maintaining the secrecy of the voter), adds those votes to the total count and orders the results to be certified, unless the election is contested. A sample “certificate of election” is available in the Additional Resources section of this LOGON page below. The state requirements for certification are found under AS 29.26.070(c).

A newly elected official’s term usually starts on the first Monday following certification of the election, unless the municipality has adopted an ordinance that sets a different date, state law would apply, AS 29.20.150(c). A municipality may canvass the election on the first Friday after the election, then swear in the new members and reorganize on the first Monday after the election. Newly elected officials are required (AS 29.20.600) to affirm in writing an oath of office to honestly, faithfully, and impartially perform the duties of office before taking office, and AS 29.20.150 provides that a member of the governing body serve until a successor qualifies for office. A sample “oath of elected official” is found in the Additional Resources section below.

After the canvass board has counted all of the absentee and challenged/questioned ballots that are appropriate to count, the election has been certified, and any appeals or court cases are ended, the ballots can be destroyed. Check the municipality's ordinance to see if it specifies a date when the ballots are to be destroyed. Do not destroy ballots until at least 30 days from the time the election is certified or any appeals finally decided.

Municipalities are required to send the master voter registration list with voters' signatures back to the Alaska Division of Elections within 60 days of the election (AS 15.07.137). The Division uses the information to update the voters' voting history. The Division will return the Master Voter Registration List when the voting histories have been updated. The information contained on the list will include those who voted absentee ballots by mail, absentee ballots in person, questioned/challenged ballots, and special needs ballots in addition to those who voted at the polls on election day. Though not specifically required, if your municipality is not exempt from financial disclosure requirements, after the election is certified, you may send a letter to the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) with the names and addresses of all newly elected officials. It is requested that municipal election results be provided to the Division of Community and Regional affairs.

Once the election is certified, candidates are sworn into office, and the new governing body reorganizes then the business of government begins. Frequently new council members need training or to be brought up to speed on what is going on. There are LOGON chapters addressing the organization of government, the duties assigned to the various offices, and procedures for conducting the business of government. Training for newly elected officials or anyone wanting more information on conducting government, is available through the Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA).

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is responsible for completing the tasks required after the election is over?

Under state law (AS 29.20.380(a)(7)), the clerk is supervisor of elections and is responsible for administering all municipal elections. Though not specifically spelled out in statute, AS 29.26.070(c) makes reference to the local governing body acting as the canvass committee. Your local ordinances will usually specify that the governing body act as the review or canvass committee. The canvass committee verifies the preliminary count conducted by the election workers, reviews the absentee and questioned ballots and verification of questioned voter eligibility, and either orders additional information or certifies the election. If the community has not exempted itself from the 40% rule, and a run off election is required, the canvass committee can still certify those seats that did receive the required 40% and order a run off election for any seats that didn't get the required 40%.

Is there help available for conducting elections?

Yes. If your local election ordinance, the Plain English Guide to Elections, and/or this section do not address the issue, the State of Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, Division of Community and Regional Affairs Regional Offices provide local government assistance both on-site and over the phone.

What are the minimum mandatory requirements after an election?

Under state law a municipality must:

  • conduct a run off election if no candidate receives 40% of the vote for the office of mayor or a designated seat, unless otherwise provided by ordinance (AS 29.26.060(a)), or if no candidate in an at large election receives greater than 40% of the total votes cast divided by the number of seats to be filled, unless otherwise provided by ordinance (AS 29.26.060(b));
  • declare the election results at the first meeting to canvass the election, record the results in the meeting minutes, and authorize the results to be certified, unless otherwise provided by ordinance (AS 29.26.070(c));
  • if appropriate, conduct a run off election within three weeks after certification of the election and publish notice of the election for at least five days before the election date, unless otherwise provided by ordinance (AS 29.26.060(c));
  • conduct the runoff election with only the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for the seat (AS 29.26.060(c));
  • require a contestant to pay all costs of an election recount if the count fails to reverse the result, or the difference between the winning vote count and losing vote count is more than 2% (AS 29.26.070(d));
  • require a person wanting to appeal or seek judicial review to be a voter, exhaust all administrative remedy before the governing body before seeking judicial review, and, if seeking judicial review, commence any court action within 10 days of the date the governing body declares the election results (AS 29.26.070(e)).

The Alaska Constitution (Article V, Section 3) also protects the right to contest an election and seek judicial review of election practices.

Who enforces the rules?

The local governing body is the enforcement entity and is responsible for providing administrative review of the election process and/or actions of election officials. If a person disagrees with a decision of the governing body, they may file a lawsuit to request judicial review of the decision. The governing body indicates its review and approval of the election by certifying the election in writing. A sample certificate of election is available in the Additional Resources section below.

How is residency confirmed, and what happens if a person's name does not show up on the voter registration list?

The Division of Elections determines a voter's residency and right to vote under the rules spelled out in AS 15.05.020-.030 (see Title 15 of the Current Alaska Statutes). Residents must be registered 30 days before the election if they want to vote in the election. The Division of Elections updates the voter registration list to reflect those people who registered in time to vote in the election. Residents who register to vote after the 30-day limit will not be on the Master Voter Registration list. If the person's name does not show up on the voter registration list, they may vote a "questioned ballot" or "challenged ballot." (Note: Anyone wanting to vote must be allowed to. Local election officials are not authorized to deny a person the right to vote, per AS 15.07.010.) The day after the election, the city clerk investigates the voter registration status of the questioned/challenged ballots and the absentee ballots. Using the information provided by the clerk, the canvass committee counts any questioned ballots determined eligible.

What happens if there has to be a run-off election?

Under state law (AS 29.26.060), a run-off election must be held if no candidate receives 40% of the vote for the office of mayor or a designated seat, or if no candidate in an at-large election receives greater than 40% of the total votes cast divided by the number of seats to be filled, unless otherwise provided by ordinance. If a run-off election is required, it must be conducted within three weeks after certification of the election and notice of the election must be published for at least five days before the election date, unless otherwise provided by ordinance. The run-off election is between only the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for the seat.

If the day of the run-off election was approved when the U.S. Department of Justice precleared your election ordinance, a preclearance request is not required. However, if the ordinance hasn't been precleared or if the date of the runoff election wasn't included in the election ordinance, the run-off election will have to be precleared since it's a special election.

The run-off election is conducted in the same manner as the regular election except that the ballot will contain only two candidates and will have no provision for write-in votes.

After the canvass board has counted all of the absentee and challenged/questioned ballots that are appropriate to count, the election has been certified, and any appeals or court cases are ended, the ballots can be destroyed. Check the municipality's ordinance to see if it specifies a date when the ballots are to be destroyed. Do not destroy ballots until at least 30 days from the time the election is certified or any appeals finally decided.

Municipalities are required to send the master voter registration list with voters' signatures back to the Alaska Division of Elections within 60 days of the election (AS 15.07.137). The Division uses the information to update the voters' voting history. The Division will return the Master Voter Registration List when the voting histories have been updated. The information contained on the list will include those who voted absentee ballots by mail, absentee ballots in person, questioned/challenged ballots, and special needs ballots in addition to those who voted at the polls on election day. Though not specifically required, if your municipality is not exempt from financial disclosure requirements, after the election is certified, you may send a letter to the Alaska Public Offices Commission with the names and addresses of all newly elected officials. It is requested that municipal election results be provided to the Division of Community and Regional affairs.

Once the election is certified, candidates are sworn into office, and the new governing body reorganizes then the business of government begins. Frequently new council members need training or to be brought up to speed on what is going on. There are LOGON chapters addressing the organization of government, the duties assigned to the various offices, and procedures for conducting the business of government. Training for newly elected officials or anyone wanting more information on conducting government, is available through this division (Community and Regional Affairs) and the Alaska Municipal League.

Additional Resources

Publications:

Sample documents:

Recommended web site search topics:

  • Alaska Division of Elections
  • Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks (AAMC)
  • Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC)
  • U.S. Civil Rights Division, Voting Rights Section
  • Infobase Alaska Statutes
  • Infobase Alaska Administrative Code
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 (see Current Alaska Statutes)

  • 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 29.20.060-.220 Assembly composition and apportionment.
  • AS 29.20.130 City council composition.
  • AS 29.20.140 Qualifications of members of governing bodies.
  • AS 29.20.150 Term of office.
  • 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 29.26.010 Administration requirement for governing body to prescribe rules for conducting an election, election board and judges.
  • 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.

Revised 12/30/2014