City clerk: 53 precincts ran out of ballots

Michelle Theriault Boots
Election workers Jean Abel and Barbara Mishler verify the eligibility of questioned voter ballots on Friday, April 6, 2012, at City Hall. The ballots are from about half of the precincts in the recent municipal election and will be counted once the eligibility is confirmed.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
More than 6,000 questioned ballots were cast in the recent Anchorage municipal election, compared to about 1,000 cast in last year's voting.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

More than 40 percent of Anchorage polling places faced ballot shortages at some point during Tuesday's chaotic municipal election, the city clerk's office said Friday.

Election workers have "preliminarily reviewed" all 121 of the precincts, and found that 53 ran out of ballots at some point, said municipal clerk Barbara Gruenstein.

The clerk's office also noted an unusual number of questioned ballots cast even before the shortages.

More than 6,000 questioned ballots were cast in the election, as compared to just more than 1,000 in last year's city election.

Most of the questioned ballots -- around 5,000 of them -- were cast before ballot shortages.

"There was an exorbitant amount of questioned ballots," said municipal deputy clerk Jacqueline Duke on Friday.

Questioned ballots are issued when a voter walks in without identification, if they are for some reason not on the registry, have moved within the past 30 days or if they are voting in a place other than their home precinct.

It isn't yet clear why so many people voted questioned ballots, Gruenstein said.

On Friday, a half-dozen elections workers sat in a room on the first floor of City Hall facing the street. They could be heard talking quietly and asking questions of one another as they examined yellow "questioned" ballot envelopes.

Their job was to match information provided on those envelopes with a statewide voter registration database to make sure the voter was properly registered, said Duke.

The public can observe the verification and vote-counting process.

Phyllis Rhodes, who said she volunteered with the One Anchorage campaign, a supporter of Proposition 5, watched from a table at the back of the room. She said she couldn't see or hear what was happening very well but felt it was important to have observers on-site.

"I don't expect any of these people to do anything wrong but I wonder what they're doing," Rhodes said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.

Anchorage Daily News