As of noon on April 10, the ACLU of Alaska says more than 150 voters had called or emailed them to report disenfranchisement during last week’s municipal election in Anchorage. They say the voters that contacted them represent at least 54 separate polling places where they encountered problems. The ACLU is presenting affidavits from the disenfranchised voters to the Anchorage Assembly, and pressing for an independent investigation.
Rhonda Matthews is one of the people who called the ACLU to report that she’d been disenfranchised. Matthews first went to her voting precinct at Klatt Elementary School just after 7 o’clock on April 3. That’s where she says she was turned away by an election worker in the parking lot who told her they’d run out of ballots and directed her to vote at the Alaska Club on O’Malley.
“When I arrived I noticed the parking lot was very crowded. And that some people were exiting the building that appeared to be quite frustrated. I went in side and when I got to the voting table I told the poll employee that I was from Klatt Elementary and had been sent to this location. I was told that I couldn’t vote there but didn’t specify why. They told me that I could vote at the airport,” Matthews said.
Matthews explains in her affidavit that by the time she was directed to the airport it was 7:45, and with polling places closing at 8:00pm, there wasn’t enough time … so she gave up and went home. The Municipal clerk’s office is still reviewing the more than 6,000 question ballots that resulted because of the lack of official ballots. And nobody knows how many people gave up and didn’t vote at all. Monday the clerk apologized in a memo, saying they had sufficient ballots, but did not allocate enough of the ballots to the individual precincts. Jeffrey Mittman is the Executive director of the ACLU. He says in the week they’ve been collecting voter stories, they’ve had 139 calls and 19 emails. He says that’s just the tip of the iceberg and justifies the appointment of an independent council.
“How many voters did not get to vote? Was it 50? Was it 500? Was it 5,000? We don’t know. To speculate is grossly inappropriate. What is also inappropriate is to rush to judgment and say, ‘Oh, we can likely certify this election and there’s not need to do it over.’ For the city attorney to opine that it is possible to move forward with certification is just simply wrong,” Mittman said.
Monday Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler issued a preliminary opinion, saying it appeared likely the election would be validated, based on a similar case back in 1989. The Assembly Chair, Debbie Ossiander says she’s considering appointing an outside council to investigate the election, but she first wants to consider reports from Wheeler and the Election Commission.