Anchorage Election Recount Results Show Confusion at Polls

An Election Recount Board has released the results of a hand recount of the votes cast in 15 precincts during the Anchorage Municipal Election. The Board spent the past couple of weeks checking paper ballots against voting machine results and voter registries.

The 12-person Election Recount Board met at City Hall Monday morning to sign off on their report. They found that most precincts were only off by one or two ballots. But Precinct 840 had 205 signatures more than ballots. Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler was on hand to explain.

“The voters apparently signed the voter register but also signed the question register and had their ballots placed in question envelopes. And we think we have them all accounted for with the exception of eight.  It may be, we have some evidence of this, but it may be that those eight persons could not wait in line any longer. And, although they had signed the register, they left without actually casting a ballot, which is why you have more people who have signed than ballots cast,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the same was true in precinct 660, where the count was off by six. The recount was ordered by the Assembly after a group of voters petitioned the Clerk’s office for it. The April 3 Municipal Election was fraught with problems. An Election Commission report blamed the Clerk’s Office for not distributing enough ballots. More than half of the precincts ran out of ballots. The Anchorage Assembly has appointed a retired judge to pinpoint what went wrong. His report, due out by June 28, will be used as a guide to improve future elections. Denise Stephens is a member of the recount board. She says the anomalies they found happened because precinct workers did not know how to handle the unusual number and varied types of question ballots that were cast when precincts ran short of normal paper ballots.

“At the precinct they didn’t have a clear understanding of what they should do with those ballots once they were cast on a non-card for their precinct or they were on a facsimile or a copy or a question, you know a sample ballot, and they were put in question envelopes. So normally, if its in a question envelope you only sign the question register. But at the precinct that day because it wasn’t a normal question envelope, they had them sign both,” Stephens said.

Assembly Chair Ernie Hall observed the Election Board’s meeting. He says he’s relieved that the recount is finished, and is ready to move the process forward.

“I’ll be anxious to see how it gets handled. My anticipation is it’ll pass,” Hall said.

The full Assembly will review the recount report and vote on whether to certify it at their regular Tuesday meeting. Election Board members will answer questions from assembly members. There will be no public testimony.

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Daysha Eaton, KMXT - Kodiak
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.