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Final ballot count puts Traini on top by 174 votes

Rosemary Shinohara,James Halpin
Norma Sullivan and others from the city Election Commission open and sort questioned and absentee ballots at City Hall on Friday morning, April 16, 2010. Marc Lester

Former Anchorage Assemblyman Dick Traini widened his lead slightly in the tight race for the Midtown Assembly seat after the final tally of the remaining absentee and questioned ballots, according to the city clerk.

The final count came late Friday night after new errors turned up earlier in the day in the voting process for two polling places.

The city canvass board sorted by precinct 3,032 citywide absentee and questioned ballots that have been accepted as valid, according to city clerk Barbara Gruenstein.

After the count Friday, Traini led conservative challenger Andy Clary by 174 votes, 3,104 to 2,930. The count represented the final totals, subject only to Assembly approval at its meeting next week, Gruenstein said.

Before Friday's count, Traini led by 147 votes, 2,862 to 2,715. On election night, Traini had an even bigger lead: 248 votes. The next day, a count of some absentee ballots cut the lead to 183. Then elections officials discovered some Midtown ballots were mistakenly cast by voters in a downtown district, and the officials subtracted those votes from the totals. The mistaken votes were cast at the Anchorage Senior Center.

Friday, the clerk's office investigated two similar problems at polling places in Spring Hill Elementary on Lake Otis Parkway and at College Gate Elementary in East Anchorage.

Candidate Clary found discrepancies at those two polling places, which both cover two precincts in two Assembly districts. More people voted Midtown ballots than showed up on the register as Midtown voters, Clary said.

But when the clerk's office checked it out, it found only four people voting at Spring Hill Elementary on Lake Otis Parkway were wrongly given Midtown ballots instead of South Anchorage ballots.

Another 26 voters who cast ballots at College Gate told precinct workers they were in the Midtown district and got Midtown ballots, though the voter sign-in registry said they were in the East Anchorage district, said Gruenstein.

The clerk's office checked the addresses given and found the voters were right and the register was wrong. They voted properly, said Gruenstein.

Some of them lived in a single condominium complex, said deputy city clerk Jacqueline Duke.


By ROSEMARY SHINOHARA and JAMES HALPIN
Anchorage Daily News