Anchorage Assembly Certifies Election Recount, Denies Public Testimony

The Anchorage Assembly certified the recount of the April 3 Municipal Election Tuesday evening. Several Assembly members pushed for public comment on the certification, but the chair denied it.

The Chair of the Election Recount Board, Denise Stephens presented a report of their work to the Assembly. She explained that 13 of the 15 precincts the Board reviewed closely matched with a few of the precincts off by 1 or 2. At Precinct 840, Service High School, the Board could not find eight ballots for voters that had signed the register.

“One possible explanation is that these eight voters left the precinct without voting after having signed the precinct register. Precinct 660 had a similar result with six signatures more than corresponding ballots. The recount resulted in no change in the outcome of the election,” Stephens said.

Stephens noted that the Election Board did investigate the voting machines. 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. Assembly members Harriet Drummond requested public comment on the certification.

“(Drummond:) I think we’re being extremely unfair to the public to not allow them a specific opportunity to testify on this election as opposed to making them wait until the end of the meeting when the media has gone home, when most people have turned it off. I think this is wrong. (Hall:) Ms. Drummond that will be duly noted.”

Assembly members Paul Honeman and Elvi Gray-Jackson also spoke in support of public testimony being included. But Chair Ernie Hall denied that request and was supported by Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler, citing an attorney hired by the municipality to provide an opinion on the issue.

“I’ve reviewed the opinion provided by Mr. Petumenos and I recall his comments here at the assembly meeting and I agree with those comments. I trust his analysis of the issue and agree with him that this is a quasi-judicial matter, it’s not a public hearing item,” Wheeler said.

Toward the end of the meeting Eugene Haberman, who said he has been conducting his own investigation into the election, attempted to present a report during the audience participation period. He alleged that officials looking into what went wrong during the election did not properly notify the public of their meetings nor provide video or audio taping of their work. He also implied that the firing of Deputy Clerk Jacqueline Duke was improper and meant to impede the investigation into the election.

“Tonight you have on the agenda the election report that was approved by the Anchorage Election Board on Monday May 21, 2012. As a result of my findings it would be inappropriate for you to approve this report. My report to you tonight clearly indicates that at this time no one won in this election, everyone lost,” Haberman said.

By the time Haberman got to speak, the Assembly had already approved the certification of the election recount. The Anchorage Assembly has appointed a retired judge to pinpoint what went wrong during the election. His report, due out by June 28, will be used as a guide to improve future elections.

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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.

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