By Devin Kelly
Anchorage voters have rejected an initiative that would have regulated access to restrooms and locker rooms by a person's sex at birth instead of gender identity, a local version of what's known nationally as a "bathroom bill" that sparked massive spending by an opposition campaign.
The latest election results released Friday show Proposition 1 was failing by a six-point margin, with 77,766 ballots counted. There are fewer than 1,000 ballots left to be counted, election officials said.
Opponents of Prop. 1 declared victory Friday night. Lillian Lennon, an organizer with the Fair Anchorage campaign and a transgender woman, read the results aloud to a small group assembled at the city's election headquarters on Ship Creek.
"It means that Anchorage stood together as one community against a discriminatory proposition," Lennon said in an interview later.
Fair Anchorage raised more than $800,000 toward advertising, consulting services, phone banking, events and other campaign activities, making it one of the most expensive campaigns in the city's history. The records indicate a large infusion of Outside cash from various donors.
The city has fought bitter battles over LGBT rights in the past, most recently in 2012.
Prop. 1, meanwhile, was apparently one of the country's first "bathroom bills" to appear on a ballot as an initiative.
In an email to supporters earlier this week, Jim Minnery, the president of Alaska Family Action and the husband of Prop. 1 sponsor Kim Minnery, said he was still hopeful for a victory but acknowledged the odds were slim. He called the campaign an "uphill battle," saying his side was outspent by a six-to-one margin.
Minnery pledged to keep up the fight, however.
He contended a majority of voters disapproved of the city's nearly 3-year-old law to allow people to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, but were confused by the initiative's purpose.
Lennon, with the Fair Anchorage campaign, also said Friday's results indicated supporters of the non-discrimination law still had work to do.
In other close races, Friday's updated results showed Alisha Hilde beating out her next-closest challenger, Tasha Hotch, to win a School Board seat.
From initial results released Tuesday, no races were overturned.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz won his second term Thursday, with his main challenger, Rebecca Logan, conceding the race. Berkowitz also scored other victories for his administration on the ballot, like permission to sell the city's electric utility and to give homeowners a higher property tax break.
A few hundred more ballots, mailed and absentee, may trickle in before a public canvassing session April 13 where the city's Election Commission reviews questioned ballots. The canvassing will include the review of close to 570 ballots from voters whose signatures could not be verified, said Carolyn Hall, the education and outreach coordinator for the election.
This was Anchorage's first-ever vote-by-mail election, and it shattered turnout records.
As of Thursday, turnout by party still followed typical patterns for an election, according to an analysis by Dittman Research, a campaign consulting firm that often works for Republicans but did not have clients in this election.
Nonpartisan voters turned out in the highest number, at 43.2 percent of those registered as nonpartisan. About 40 percent of registered Republicans voted, followed by about 39 percent of registered Democrats, the analysis shows.
(c)2018 the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska)