Alaska News Nightly: May 3, 2012

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Group Files for Hand Recount

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

One month after the Anchorage Municipal Election ballot fiasco, the Assembly is set to consider certification of the April 3rd election. A group of voters says that should not happen before a hand recount and independent investigation, but the Assembly has released a report by an outside attorney supporting certification.

The attorney hired by the Assembly recommends certifying the election. In the report, Timothy Petumenos, writes that, “Outright corrupt or criminal conduct which may have been aimed at affecting the outcome of an election is insufficient ground to invalidate an election unless the conduct reasonably had the potential for changing the outcome.”

But that opinion will not sit well with a group of voters pushing for an audit and hand recount of the election. Guadalupe Marroquin is one voter who is pushing for recount. She says it’s premature to certify the election before there’s been a independent investigation and hand count of the ballots.

“It’s a very easy beginning to bring the public back into feeling like they have ownership with elections,” Marroquin said.

And Marroquin’s opinion holds some weight – she served as Deputy Clerk for the Municipality from 2003 to 2009. In a letter to the Assembly, and in an opinion piece which appeared in the Anchorage Daily News earlier this week, she listed several concerns about the election. But her main concern is how the voting machines irregularities.

“There was such lack security in the care of the security seals that were placed on the AccuVote machines to protect the memory cards,” Marroquin said.

The current Deputy Clerk, Jacqueline Duke addressed that issue in an interview on April 21. She acknowledged that the seals on the AccuVote memory cards were flimsy and prone to breaking in transport. She says she told workers that they could replace those tabs if they were broken.

“Duke: Yes, it’s very important to keep the machine from being tampered with. But the person who would have tampered with is be the election worker themselves.  — Daysha: So it’s possible that they could have been tampered with by an election worker if a tab was broken? — Duke: Absolutely.”

Duke says, for tampering to occur, you would have to have an extremely deep understanding of the voting machine cards, the software and of the machines themselves, and that the clerk’s office is counting on the honesty of election workers.

“Daysha: Can you reassure people that there was no tampering or can you not? – Duke: You know what, if you ever doubt that there’s tampering or think that there’s something illegal that happened with the election, that’s why we have process called recount. We have every single ballot that’s secure in every single precinct ballot bag that’s secure in the office and if you would like we can recount the entire election.”

That’s exactly what Attorney Hal Gazaway would like to see happen. He is the leader of the group that filed the application with the clerk’s office this week requesting an audit and a physical hand recount of the paper ballots from the election.

“There were a number of irregularities in this last election. There were a number of petitions being circulated online and a lot of email traffic. The administration weren’t calling for a recount and it seemed like there needed to be a hand recount,” Gazaway said.

Gazaway says one big reason he would like to see a recount is because of reports of problems with the voting machines, and it’s critical to have a hand recount before certification. He’s hoping for a big voter turnout at tonight’s special assembly meeting where certification is on the table.

“I think that the people, if they’re concerned about whether their vote counts. I think this is the time to step up and speak that they want their vote to count, that they’re not apathetic and just don’t care. That they do care that their votes are counted, that the do care that they have the opportunity to vote,” Gazaway said.

Ultimately, Gazaway says his group would like to see an independent third party investigation of the April 3 Municipal Election, something the Assembly chair has said is likely to happen, but not necessarily before the election is certified. Gazaway says the hand count should come before any of that.

If the election is certified, under municipal code all paper ballots will be destroyed within 30 days of certification.

The Anchorage Assembly is set to consider certification of the April 3rd Municipal Election at a special meeting set for Thursday at 5:00.

Health Worker Says Repsol Blowout Cause Of Some Respiratory Illness Cases

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A North Slope health worker says a February oil well blowout has left lingering physical effects on villagers some 18 miles from the well. She says Nuiqsut villagers seem to have a high incidence of respiratory ailments this spring, although state officials blame the maladies on the flu.

North Slope officials were contacted for this story, but declined comment.

Officials Suspend Kenai Peninsula Aerial Wolf Hunts

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

Following a decision to implement aerial wolf hunts on the Kenai Peninsula as a means of increasing local moose populations, the Department of Fish and Game has decided to suspend those operations for at least a year in order to gather more information.

UAA Handing Out First Doctorate Degrees

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The University of Alaska Anchorage is going to award its first doctorate degrees next week. The Ph.D.s in Clinical Psychology will go to two students in a program administered jointly by UAA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In the past, UAF has handed out the doctoral degrees for the program, but now UAA’s name will also appear on the diploma.

Mike Driscoll is UAA’s provost. He says it took the university at least four years to make the accreditation change.

Final Ft. Wainwright Stryker Soldiers Returning Home

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The final group of the Ft. Wainwright based Stryker brigade soldiers returned to Fairbanks from Afghanistan Wednesday. The contingent of 100 was the last of the 4,000 member unit that deployed overseas a year ago.

Aviation Show Coming To Alaska

Rex Gray, APRN Contributor

Alaska has more pilots and airplanes per capita than any other state. And this weekend is their own version of the great Alaska Sportsman Show. It’s a chance to see the latest airplanes and flight products and visit with old friends. The show is organized by the Alaska Airmen’s Association.

Kids Descend On Quinhagak For ‘Singsperation’

Mark Arehart, KYUK – Bethel

Dozens of kids from communities across the state descended on the village of Quinhagak last weekend to learn, praise, worship and do a little singing, too. It was called Singsperation.