Some Ballots Thrown Out of Anchorage Election Because of Officials’ Error, New results expected Friday

i_voted_cropped-300x266About 100 ballots from the 2013 Municipal Election were rejected during a public canvas held at city hall last night. The canvas, led by the Anchorage Election Commission, lasted several hours.

(Dennis Wheeler reading names of some ballots being considered for rejection.)

That’s municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler reading the names of a few of the voters whose ballots were rejected during the Public Canvas Thursday evening.

More than 100 questioned ballots were rejected. Ballots were rejected for a variety of reasons – because they were cast in a district in which the voter was not registered, because they were postmarked after election day or because the voter who cast the ballot was not registered at all, among others. The eight-person Election Commission conducted the canvas with help from the clerk’s office and the municipal attorney. Tom Cresap drove all the way from Eagle River to protest his ballot being thrown out. He says he cast an in-person absentee ballot at the Chugiak Senior Center on election day. He did everything right but,

“One of the guys at the polling place there, just didn’t sign off on it. Everything else was correct. I filled everything in, signed everything, voted correctly, did all that stuff.”

Cresap was one of 11 voters whose ballots were rejected not because of any mistake of their own, but because an election official failed to sign off on them. The election commission voted unanimously to throw all 11 ballots out, arguing that they had sworn to follow municipal code, which states that votes may not be counted if election officials fail to sign off on them. That doesn’t sit well with Cresap.

“I’ve been voting here for 48 years and I voted the same way I’ve always voted. There was nothing irregular. I didn’t do anything wrong, like voting twice or anything like that. My vote has always been counted before.”

Cresap said that he felt the Election Commission should have made an exception and counted the 11 ballots without the election officials signatures. In addition, he said that the clerk’s office should better train their election workers insure they sign off on the ballots that they’re responsible for. Furthermore, Cresap said the municipal code needs to be changed so that no other voters have his experience. The write-in candidate in the tight west Anchorage race, Nick Moe watched the canvas attentively. He told Cresap that he hoped something good could come of the mishap.

“You know, I really believe that every vote should count. I still have concerns over the fact that it was out of their control. They didn’t get a chance for their vote to count because an election person didn’t sign it. And we saw that here tonight, and it was pretty disappointing. It would be one of the first things I would change on the Assembly is to allow the city code to reflect the state law that allows for votes to count, even if they were not signed.”

The commission accepted a few ballots – one where a voter’s drivers license number didn’t match the one on her questioned ballot. That voter protested, officials checked her birthdate, found it was correct and counted her vote. Another two were ballots that were accepted, were requested by fax, after the deadline, which was a week before the election. The ballots were faxed back on election day. Members of the public argued that state code allows voters to request a ballot by fax until 5pm the day before the election. The public canvas lasted several hours. Voters are watching the west Anchorage Assembly race closely where write-in candidate Nick Moe trails Assembly Chair Ernie Hall closely, by just 93 votes. The remaining ballots are scheduled to be processed through an Acu-vote machine today and the clerk’s office anticipates that new election results may be available before the close of business on Friday. A hand count of the West Anchorage District is scheduled for Saturday.

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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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