Preliminary city review shows election results may stand

Lisa Demer

While a preliminary review indicates a ballot shortage in the April 3 city election likely will not invalidate the results, the city is continuing to review court cases and the law in order to advise the Anchorage Assembly, Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler said Monday in a written statement.

Upset voters who scurried around the city from polling place to polling place trying to find a ballot said the situation was chaotic. Some have asked for a redo. The ballot included votes for mayor and a hotly contested gay-rights initiative.

Wheeler last week told reporters a new election appeared unlikely. Similar shortages occurred in a 1989 Anchorage election with higher-than-expected turnout. The Anchorage Assembly certified that election, which included the hot button issue of whether to sell what was then a city-owned telephone utility, even though some voters reported being turned away and others used paper sample ballots.

"My answer was not intended to diminish the importance of voting, or meant to seem unsympathetic towards those who were unable to vote on election day," Wheeler said in the statement.

Even if an election is not properly conducted, it shouldn't be overturned unless the vote could have gone the other way if not for the problems, according to a city legal opinion regarding the 1989 election.

None of the races or issues on last week's ballot was close, Wheeler said.

City Clerk Barbara Gruenstein on Monday said the Election Commission is continuing to process an unusual number of questioned ballots from people who either were newly registered to vote or who were voting outside their regular precinct. The commission intends to meet publicly on Friday -- two days later than planned -- to announce which absentee and questioned ballots will be rejected and which ones will count.

It may take a couple of days after that to complete the count of absentees, questioned ballots, and paper sample ballots, she said. Besides the 6,000 questioned ballots, there are thousands of other ballots left to count.

Ultimately, the Assembly will decide whether to declare the election invalid. It had been set to certify the results on April 17 but that may be pushed back, the city clerk said.

Reach Lisa Demer at or 257-4390.

PDF: Read the city attorney's memo
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