Deputy Municipal Clerk Jaqueline Duke has been fired. Retired Superior Court Daniel Hensley has been hired. And Anchorage Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall said Wednesday that by the time the investigation into the botched April 3 city election is over, voters will have answers to all of their questions.
Those election questions must be answered. After that, the Assembly must do what's necessary to make sure voters never have to ask those questions again.
Duke's role as a prime planner of the election operation led to her dismissal, although Hall, who made the decision, said the election was not the only reason for it. He declined to say more, except to add that he had nothing bad to say about Duke, but that it was time for a change.
"We had a major meltdown in our election," Hall said Wednesday. As the prime city official in charge of that election, it's no surprise Duke lost her job.
What that means for Municipal Clerk Barbara Gruenstein, Duke's boss, isn't clear. Some have called for her firing or resignation; Gruenstein herself has said that in hindsight she should have been more involved in the details of election planning, where she could have brought years of her election experience to bear. Her future may depend on the results of Hensley's investigation, to cost $35,000 and run 30 days.
That investigation will focus on the ballot shortage at 65 precincts, the conduct of the municipal clerk's office both before and during the election, training of election workers and how to prevent such a meltdown from happening again.
Hall added that Hensley would follow up on anything he found relevant to the election problems.
"When we're done with this, we're going to look into each and every one" of the complaints about the election, he said.
Hall said that the hand recount of 15 precincts was going well as of Wednesday afternoon, with one precinct's hand count being just one vote off the Accuvote machine count. Hall made clear that if the hand count found significant discrepancies, he'd favor a hand count of the entire election.
The Assembly and Gruenstein have two jobs right now.
First, make certain that the April 3 results are valid, that the results reflect the will of the voters, even with the ballot shortages. So far that looks to be the case.
Second, find out exactly what caused the mess, who was responsible, and how to fix it.
The goals are to remove all doubt, both about the city election just past and the city elections to come.
BOTTOM LINE: Assembly's job is to restore full faith in election system.