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141 'potentially uncounted' ballots discovered from Anchorage's botched April election

Ben Anderson

On Friday, Anchorage City Clerk Barbara Jones and city Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall announced that three bags discovered during an "organizational process" at the clerk's office contained 141 ballots that may have gone uncounted from Anchorage's April 3 municipal election.

According to a joint press release, the bags contained a number of the standard ballots that had already been scanned and counted, but also contained a number of sample ballots that may have been uncounted. The press release said that the bags were sealed, and should have contained only the scanned ballots.

A checklist of ballots from each precinct revealed that the questionable ballots came from polling places in precincts 405 (Anchorage School District education center), 465 (UAA Diplomacy Building) and 855 (Anchorage Community YMCA).

Sample ballots like the ones found in the bags were used on the day of the election as numerous precincts around Anchorage began running out of the standard ballots. Organizers had those waiting to cast a vote use the sample ballots, which then had to be hand counted.

The April election saw some voters disenfranchised when their polling places ran out of ballots, leading some who didn't want to wait for additional ballots to arrive to leave without casting their votes. According to a report from former superior court judge Dan Hensley, the lack of ballots was due primarily to cost-cutting and inexperienced staff

Former Deputy City Clerk Jacqueline Duke was fired over the events of the election. Clerk Barbara Gruenstein wasn't fired, but resigned effective on June 30. Jones took over on July 1, and ordered the "organizational process" that turned up the mystery ballots.

The election saw Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan win re-election by a wide margin, and the defeat of a controversial gay-rights ballot initiative that would have afforded protections against discrimination for sexual orientation and identity similar to those already in place for race, gender, and age.

Sullivan was sworn in earlier this month while vacationing in Hawaii.

Now, with the 141 ambiguous ballots to be dealt with, the city Election Commission will have the convene to publically review the ballots. The time and date of those meetings haven't yet been determined. Following the results of those canvasses the Anchorage Assembly will have to meet to recertify the election.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com