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Precincts run out of election ballots

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 or 257-4340.


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