Anchorage Still Cleaning Up Election Mess

The Election Commission will hold the final public canvass session to count ballots from the troubled municipal election in Anchorage Thursday. The ballots were found uncounted in a closet in city hall in July.

The room where the 141 missing ballots were stored after they were found in July. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA - Anchorage

After nearly four months, Anchorage officials say they hope the canvass will begin to shut the door on a messy chapter in the city’s election history. The canvass will be followed by final certification of the election, later this month. Anchorage Assembly Chair Ernie Hall says it’s important to make sure voters have access to the canvass.

“What happens at the canvass is if you voted in the election and for some reason your vote was disqualified, you’re notified in writing that your ballot is not going to be counted, you have the opportunity to come to come to that canvass and protest your ballot not being counted,” Hall said. “Maybe it’s misunderstanding, you were not in the wrong district, for whatever reason but it gives you a chance to come in personally and say, no you’re wrong. I am an eligible voter and my ballot should count.”

During the April 3 municipal election, which included a mayoral race and controversial equal rights initiative, polling places ran out of ballots and some people could not vote. The deputy clerk was fired and the clerk resigned soon after. The election was certified after a lengthy investigation of what went wrong. Then, in July, officials found a bag of 141 uncounted ballots hiding in a closet on the first floor of city hall. The new ballots will not change the outcome of the election. Next on the agenda, Hall says, the Assembly will question Dan Hensley, the attorney they hired to produce a report on the election, at a work session in September. One thing on Hall’s list is Hensley’s opinion on ballot distribution. Something he disagrees with.

“He, in his first report, said he still didn’t feel that it was necessary to deliver all the ballots, as long as the ballots were in strategically placed locations so they could easily be delivered should they be needed. And I can tell you that the majority of the Assembly disagrees with that opinion. We’ve got the ballots they should be in the precincts, not someplace where they should be readily accessible. Readily accessible to us is in the precincts where the voters are,” Hall said.

Another topic he’ll question Hensley on will be the Data Processing Review Board, which monitors the reliability of computerized voting machines. The Board was disbanded in 2010. Hensley said in a July 24 addendum to his full report that the decision to disband the Board was in line with what other communities had done. He added that the Municipality may consider adopting one procedure utilized by the board – conducting random hand counts at precincts. Hensley will appear in person at a work session September 7. The public may attend but there will be no public comment period. The public canvas is scheduled for Thursday, August 2 at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. 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.