ACLU Calls for Independent Investigation of Anchorage Election

The American Civil Liberties Union is requesting an outside investigator look into the ballot mess in Anchorage. Voters reported widespread ballot shortages at polling places during municipal elections Tuesday, and there are allegations that some voters were turned away at the polls. Late today, the ACLU sent a letter to the Anchorage Assembly making the request.

“The right to vote is fundamental and absolutely essential for the conduct of democracy. While we do not wish to impune the ethics or integrity of the municipal attorney or the clerk, at a minimum, the appearance of a potential conflict of interest is apparent. Given that, given the importance of the election, given the importance of vindicating the rights of all Anchorage voters to vote and given that the public must have full confidence in any investigation, it is essential that the investigating authority be independent of the Mayor’s office, be independent of the clerk’s office and that the assembly exercise its authority to appoint a council.”

The Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska, Jeffrey Mittman, says at this point, the ethical thing to do is appoint an outside investigator to look into what happened.

Update Friday, April 6

It is now known that about half the polling places in Anchorage ran out of ballots Tuesday, and as the City Clerk tries to handle the count, the American Civil Liberties Union wants an independent investigation.

The Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska, Jeffrey Mittman, says, at this point, the ethical thing to do is appoint an outside investigator to look into what happened.

“We are calling on the assembly to appoint a counsel for a variety of reasons, one the right to vote is fundamental and absolutely essential to a democracy. While we do not wish to impune the ethics or integrity of either the municipal attorney or the clerk. At a minimum, the appearance of a potential conflict of interest is apparent. It is essential that the investigating authority be independent of the mayor’s office, be independent of the clerk’s office.”

Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler and Assembly chairwoman Debbie Ossiander both say it would be premature to hand the situation over to an outside entity right now. A large number of the ballots were cast as “questioned,” either by voters from outside their correct precinct, or by ineligible voters who registered at the polling place on election day after one of the campaigns – the Alaska Family Council – told them to do it.

DOCUMENTS:

Assembly Chair Ossiander Recommends Special Counsel for Review (PDF)

Ballot Review Updates from the Office of the Municipal Clerk


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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.