Extra marks on ballots held up tabulating on Anchorage’s Election Night

a person drops a ballot into a secure ballot box.
Just before 6 p.m., April 5, 2021, Anchorage resident Arenza Thigpen, Jr., casts a vote for mayoral candidate George Martinez and yes votes on each of the propositions. Often seen all over town collecting signatures for petitions and ballot initiatives, Thigpen said, “Now’s the time that everybody needs to be voting and actively involved. Vote without having to be tricked by news media and gossip.” (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

With more than 50,000 votes counted by Thursday, a runoff election for Anchorage mayor between Assembly member Forrest Dunbar and former Air Force and commercial pilot Dave Bronson is likely.

Progressive school board candidates have maintained a lead over their opponents, including two incumbents, and Assembly Chair Felix Rivera appears to be holding onto his seat in the face of a recall vote. 

Results in the Anchorage election came in slowly this year. Last year, the elections center got through more than half the ballots the first night, but by Tuesday night, less than a fifth of total ballots received had been tabulated. 

This year there were 15 candidates for mayor. On Wednesday evening, the clerk’s office explained early reports were held up by some unusually marked ballots.

“On a lot of ballots, people had filled in … more than one oval,” said Deputy Clerk Erika McConnell.

Some voters had then crossed off the names of the candidates they did not want to vote for, she said. The extra markings on the page caused a computer that processes the ballots to flag them.

“That takes a human being to look, to determine who the voter actually is trying to vote for,” McConnell said.

That holds up not only the ballot in question, but the entire batch of ballots being processed at that time. McConnell isn’t sure how many ballots were marked this way, but said it was less than a thousand. While these marking patterns seem to be a new thing this year, she said there’s no reason to suspect ballots were tampered with in any way. 

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