Alaska elections official says agency doesn’t plan to investigate House candidate’s eligibility

Democratic candidate Jennie Armstrong defends her time in Alaska after posts from a political writer questioned her residency

By: - October 19, 2022 4:00 am

The House floor on April 22, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney)

The Alaska Division of Elections has no plans to investigate the residency of Anchorage Democratic state House candidate Jennie Armstrong, a division official said Monday.

Last week, political writer Jeff Landfield identified social media posts by Armstrong that appeared to indicate that she moved to Alaska in June 2019. Landfield later published copies of fishing licenses that also dated her residency to June 2019. The state’s voter registration database indicates she registered to vote here in August 2019.

Alaska’s constitution requires a legislator to live in Alaska for three years before filing to run for office, and Armstrong said in her official declaration of candidacy that she moved to the state in May 2019. She filed to run on June 1.

By email, Armstrong said she met her husband in January that year, and “at the end of a road trip together in May of that year, we decided I would stay in Alaska and I moved in with him.”

She provided copies of her flight itinerary, which show her arriving in Alaska on May 10, 2019, and she provided a time-stamped photo of herself as verification.

“I have lived in Alaska since May of 2019, and there is nowhere else I have lived or called home since then, a fact that is well-documented,” she said.

She said she is focused on the issues affecting her district.

“I’m focused on getting our economy back on track, making it so we are opening new schools instead of potentially closing schools down, and doing everything I can to make House District 16 a better place to live,” Armstrong said.

State law says that for the purposes of voting, a person’s residency changes with “the act of removal, joined with the intent to remain in another place.”

Speaking about her posts on social media, she said, “The posts you’re asking about from Instagram were made retrospectively (not posted in real-time) and were my way of announcing a big life decision to family and friends and sharing the story of what made me fall in love with this place, not to provide a detailed legal record.”

“Alaska has been home for me since May 2019, and that’s why my candidacy was certified by the Division of Elections,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong is running for House District 16, which covers Anchorage’s airport and surrounding neighborhoods. In the Aug. 16 primary, she received more than 53% of the vote, and her leading challenger, Republican Liz Vazquez, received over 34%.

Eight years ago, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the intent to remain in a place is the key factor when determining someone’s residency, and that the burden of proof for challenging someone’s residency is up to the person who files the challenge.

That makes successful challenges unusual. In 2012, when Barbara Bachmeier’s candidacy for state House was rejected on residency grounds, no one working at the Alaska Division of Elections at that time could recall a similar case.

Armstrong said she didn’t feel a need to pinpoint her move-in date until she considered running for House.

“I never gave a second thought about the exact date I moved to Alaska until I needed to confirm my qualification to run for office,” she said.

As to her fishing licenses, “While my previous guess on my move date may have been slightly off on a fishing license, I made an honest guess without a second thought.”

Tiffany Montemayor, public relations manager for the Alaska Division of Elections, said by email that the division did not investigate Armstrong’s residency status and eligibility when she filed for office.

“The division based the candidacy certification on the information provided by Ms. Armstrong on her declaration of candidacy,” Montemayor said by email.

Traditionally, the division only investigates residency issues when someone files a formal complaint during a 10-day window that follows the filing deadline.

No complaints were filed against Armstrong’s candidacy, according to the results of a public records request this summer.

Montemayor said the division has not received any complaints about Armstrong’s residency status since Landfield’s writing, and she said the division will not be taking any additional action.


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James Brooks
James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected].