The Anchorage Election Commission unanimously voted this week to invalidate a questioned municipal ballot cast by state Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage.
A McGuire staffer had volunteered to fax in her absentee ballot request in March, but the transmission did not go through and the machine did not keep a record of the failed attempt, said Brett Huber, McGuire's chief of staff.
By the time McGuire realized her ballot had not arrived and made another request on Election Day, April 1, it was too late -- the last date the city processed faxed absentee ballot requests was March 31.
Last-minute attempts to find a flight to Anchorage didn't work out either, Huber said.
"It was not for a lack of attempting in the process," Huber said. "We assumed the fax went through. For some reason it did not."
McGuire ended up casting a questioned ballot, which the Election Commission rejected during its review this week.
The rejection was challenged by Peter Finn, the campaign manager for South Anchorage Assembly candidate Bruce Dougherty, a self-described moderate who is narrowly trailing conservative Bill Evans.
Evans was backed by Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan in the race. Sullivan is running against McGuire for lieutenant governor, so Finn speculated it was unlikely that McGuire had voted for Sullivan's favored candidate.
"Based on my view of politics in Anchorage, I was fairly confident she wouldn't be voting for Bill Evans," Finn said.
In their discussion of McGuire's ballot, the Election Commission ended up reviewing a string of correspondence between the Anchorage Municipal Clerk's Office and McGuire as well at least one member of her staff, Finn said.
Finn said the emails suggested that McGuire's staff had spent a significant amount of time working to resolve the problem.
Finn has filed a public records request for copies of the emails, which the clerk's office has received but not yet processed.
Huber said staffers are allowed to perform favors for legislators "as long as it's incidental, and as long as it's not something that's required, and as long as it's something that's nominal."
"My belief is that this is certainly something that's within those guidelines," Huber said. The staffer "just volunteered to do it, and probably felt terribly when the senator didn't have the ballot."
The state Legislature's standards of conduct handbook says staffers are not allowed to perform personal tasks for legislators on "government time."
The exception is in "infrequent and unusual situations," when the staffer's work is required to allow a lawmaker to perform "legislative duties."
Huber said McGuire has a "perfect voting record."
A state database shows she voted in both state primary and general elections in 2010 and 2012, and in the 2013 city election. It does not show McGuire having voted in city elections between 2009 and 2012.
By NATHANIEL HERZ