Early tally shows Anchorage Assembly member surviving recall

ANCHORAGE (AP) — An Anchorage Assembly member targeted for recall by people upset over COVID-19 mandates had an early lead in the mail-in election.

Results posted Tuesday evening show about 61% of the 9,346 votes tallied rejected the recall of Meg Zaletel with about 39% in support. The votes counted represent about 22% of registered voters in Zaletel’s midtown Anchorage district.

More than 36,000 ballots were mailed to eligible voters. To be counted, ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, and it’s unclear how many will be returned.

Anchorage Deputy Clerk Erika McConnell said unofficial results will be posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until the election is certified next month. The deadline for ballots postmarked by Tuesday have until Nov. 8 to be returned and counted. Military and overseas ballots must be returned and counted by Nov. 9.

The official reason for the recall attempt stemmed from Zaletel’s attendance at a public meeting in which recall backers say attracted more people than was allowed under COVID-19 protocols at the time.

Those on both sides of the recall issue said the election was more about COVID-19 health mandates passed by Zaletel and the majority of the Assembly. Recall proponents also blame Zaletel and the Assembly for what they say was wasteful use of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

However, Zaletel’s supporters counter that health mandates for mask mandates and social distancing were needed as Alaska faced a surge in virus cases. At one point in September, Alaska had the nation’s worst rate for new cases.

If the recall is successful, the other Assembly members would appoint someone from a list of applicants from her district.

McConnell said she was unaware of any Anchorage Assembly member being successfully recalled.