Today is the last day for anyone wishing to contest next Tuesday’s municipal election to file a write-in candidacy with the City Clerk’s Office.
Under city code, no one who has not filed a letter of intent at least five days before an election can have votes cast for them be counted. As long as someone files as a write-in candidate by 4:30 p.m., though, they can receive votes if their name is written in the provided space on the ballot.
Deputy City Clerk Beth McEwen said Wednesday that historically, not many people in Juneau have taken advantage of the write-in opportunity.
“We’ve had write-in candidacies filed very infrequently,” said McEwen.
Last year, Sean O’Brien won election to the Juneau School District Board of Education as a write-in candidate, though he and President Sally Saddler were the only candidates running for two available seats.
“I believe last year’s was because there was an open seat that didn’t have a candidate running,” McEwen remarked, referring to O’Brien.
This year, there are five candidates for three school board seats, including two incumbents and one former member.
Juneau has six seats in total up for election this year. The other three are on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, including the office of mayor. Unlike on the school board, Assemblymembers are elected to specific seats.
The most obvious race for a potential write-in campaign is District 2, where retired Juneau Police Capt. Jerry Nankervis is running unopposed.
If a write-in candidate does file in District 2, the total number of write-in votes would have to be no fewer than 100 votes less than the number of votes Nankervis receives for them to even be counted individually, under CBJ code.
In a contested race, write-ins would have to be at least the second-highest vote-getter in order for the write-in votes to be individually counted.
McEwen said she has not heard anything about a prospective write-in candidate planning to file.
“But we’re always the last to know,” McEwen added.
Like McEwen, Nankervis said he has heard no write-in buzz and expects no one to enter at this stage.
“It would be surprise me if somebody did it this late,” said Nankervis. “But they might. Who knows?”
If write-in candidacies are rare in Juneau, successful write-ins are even more so. Still, there have been instances of write-in candidates winning even in contested races.
Former school board member Sally Rue was the top vote-getter as a write-in candidate back in 1992. Rue actually received more votes than anyone else on the ballot, including then-Assemblymember Dennis Egan, that year.
Perhaps the most famous recent example of a victorious write-in candidate is not specific to Juneau. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was reelected in 2010 as a write-in candidate, despite losing the Republican Party’s nomination to Tea Party-affiliated attorney Joe Miller of Fairbanks.
In that election, Murkowski carried one of Juneau’s two legislative districts in the Alaska House of Representatives. She ran second to Democratic nominee and former Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams in the other.
If someone decides to file as a write-in candidate for the municipal election today, they will be starting out behind.
The absentee voting period began last Monday, meaning Juneau voters have already had nearly two full weeks to vote early at certain polling places.
The municipal election will be held next Tuesday. Alaska is one of 35 states where voters may cast their ballots before Election Day without needing to provide an excuse or justification for doing so.
With the election so close, Nankervis said, he thinks a late entry into the race would not have enough time to share his or her views with voters and get the message out.
Nankervis remarked, “If they haven’t filed yet, the downside for them — and myself, I guess — is that they’ve missed getting on any of the panel discussions by getting in that late.”
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.