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Precincts run out of election ballots

Rosemary Shinohara
Campaign signs for Mayor Dan Sullivan at McGinley's Pub in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Campaign supporters of Mayor Dan Sullivan look at election results at McGinley's Pub in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Mayoral candidate Paul Honeman (left) and his campaign manager Mike Gutierrez check early election results. They were at the municipal clerks office checking on the lack of ballots at some polling places, Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Juliet Hildreth and Theresa Dayton of Prop 7 celebrate outside election central on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Election workers bring ballots to City Hall Tuesday evening, April 3, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ballots and election equipment return to City Hall after the municipal election on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Kelly Harrell, left, casts her ballot in the municipal elections at the polling place at Christian Church of Anchorage on Tuesday morning, April 3, 2012. Election worker Scott Williamson is at right.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Ballots and election equipment return to City Hall after the municipal election on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Besse Odom signs in voters at the polling place at the Christian Church of Anchorage on Tuesday morning, April 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Ballots and election equipment return to City Hall after the municipal election on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Election worker Scott Williamson hands out a sticker after voter casts a ballot at the Christian Church of Anchorage polling place on Tuesday morning, April 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Ballots and election equipment return to City Hall after the municipal election on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Thomas Azzarella holds a sign in support of Proposition 5 at the corner of Northern Light Boulevard and the Seward Highway on Tuesday morning, April 3, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Ballots and election equipment return to City Hall after the municipal election on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mayoral candidate Paul Honeman checks his phone near the elevators in City Hall after the municipal election on Tuesday, Apr. 3,
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mayoral candidate Paul Honeman and his campaign manager Mike Gutierrez visited with the municipal clerk after the election on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012, concerning the ballot shortage.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Steve Baker holds button he made for Mayor Dan Sullivan's run for at McGinley's Pub in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Election workers Phyllis Janke and Deborah Hartley deliver ballots to city hall after the municipal election on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012. They said they ran out of ballots at their precinct at Alpenglow Elementary in Eagle River.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mayoral candidate Paul Honeman walks toward city hall after the municipal election on Tuesday, Apr. 3,
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Lynnette Sullivan and Mayor Dan Sullivan and supporters arrive at election central in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan and his wife Lynnette at election central after the municipal election on Tuesday, Apr. 3,
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Former mayor George Wuerch and Mayor Dan Sullivan and and Gale Hall look at results on election night at McGinley's Pub in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Lynnnette Warren pins a Yes on 5 button in support of Proposition on Adrian Matanza at the Snow City Cafe in downtown Anchorage on election night on Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Trevor Storrs campaign spokesperson for proposition 5 talks to supporters at the Snow City Cafe in downtown Anchorage on election night on Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Lynnnette Warren hands out Yes on 5 buttons in support of Proposition at the Snow City Cafe in downtown Anchorage on election night on Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Proposition 5 supporters gather at the Snow City Cafe in downtown Anchorage on election night on Tuesday April 3, 2012. Pastor Martin Eldred of Joy Luthern Church holds granddaughter Naomi Eldred at the cafe. The church is one of the sponsors of Prop 5.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Proposition 5 supporters gather at the Snow City Cafe in downtown Anchorage on election night on Tuesday April 3, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

As the final returns were counted late Tuesday, City Clerk Barbara Gruenstein said she still didn't know the extent of problems the city had in running out of ballots in the final couple hours of voting.

An "unprecedented number of voters" caused the shortage, she said.

She said election workers rushed to get more ballots into the polling places. Polls closed at 8 p.m., but those in line could still vote.

"We brought ballots all over town," she said.

People voting in polling places that ran out of ballots had to vote questioned ballots, even after additional ballots arrived, because the extra ballots were not programmed for the voting machines, said deputy city clerk Jacqueline Duke.

That means an untold number of votes that normally would be tallied election night weren't, even for people properly registered, Duke said.

Election officials didn't know how many people voted questioned ballots, or even how many people voted altogether, Gruenstein said.

The absentee and questioned ballots will be counted April 13, she said.

Jim Minnery, head of the Protect Your Rights -- Vote No on Prop. 5 group, acknowledged sending out an e-mail this week to a couple thousand people on his list that wrongly told people they could register at the polls and vote immediately.

A notice saying the same thing was also posted on the group's Facebook page Tuesday.

In fact, you have to have registered within 30 days before the election to have your vote counted.

Minnery said he called the municipal clerk’s office and talked to a worker — not Gruenstein — who misunderstood his question about whether voters could register and vote the same day.

“We sent out in one of our alerts, 'Hey you can go register and vote the same day,’” he said. “She must have heard my question wrong.”

It wasn't immediately clear what role Minnery's announcements had on the ballot shortages, but the clerk reported extraordinary turnout with a high number of questioned ballots.

Those who are not registered can vote questioned ballots that will ultimately not be counted, Gruenstein said. However, they will be registered for subsequent elections.

Duke said polling places that normally used 25 questioned ballots were using hundreds of them.

Trevor Storrs, a spokesman for the pro-gay rights initiative group One Anchorage, said the campaign was waiting for a statement from the city clerk on the reported voting irregularities.

"From there we'll decide" what to do next as a campaign, he said.

The gay rights initiative lost among ballots counted so far.

Mayor Sullivan said, "I hope people aren't disenfranchised."

Elections aren't a perfect process, he said. He said he hoped Tuesday night's issues would not be significant enough that they cause a challenge or dispute.

Beth Rose said she went to Klatt Elementary at 6:10 pm and they were out of ballots. She listened to someone explaining to about six people lined up to vote that they should go to UAA instead. One person said they were furious they couldn’t exercise their democratic right to vote.

Ace Hanke was voting at the St. Innocent Russian Orthodox Church on Turpin Street. He arrived at 7:15 and they were out of ballots.

“They are having people use sample ballots,” he said.

Wesley Loy was voting at Hanshew Middle School at Lake Otis Parkway. They told him they were out of ballots. Additional ballots were to be delivered, they said. People were giving up and leaving. They gave him a strange ballot that didn’t fit in the designated envelope. The poll workers were working hard, he said “but clearly there was some improvising going on.”

Dave Lockwood was trying to vote at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in South Anchorage shortly before 8 p.m.

Ballots did finally show up. The church waiting area was very crowded — probably 60 people were still waiting, he said. Voters were being told these ballots would have to be manually counted and would be considered “questioned ballots,” he said.

“Our votes are not being run through the computer,” Lockwood said.

He said the mood was calm and volunteers are patient and helpful.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.


By ROSEMARY SHINOHARA
Anchorage Daily News