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Anchorage Assembly recertifies mayoral runoff election after uncounted ballots found

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published May 26, 2015

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday recertified the mayoral runoff election, taking into account 58 ballots not previously tallied that altered the result by 0.01 percent but did not change the outcome.

Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones, who oversees municipal elections, said the bulk of the uncounted ballots were found inside a silver ballot box in a conference room in City Hall. Absentee ballots sent by mail are moved between three rooms -- including the conference room -- and two floors during the counting process. The day after the Assembly certified the runoff election on May 19, staffers discovered the silver box with the ballots still in their envelopes, she said.

"It's partially a space issue, and the space issue results in us handling the same ballots multiple times -- moving them from room to room -- and that was one of the problems," Jones said.

Jones said officials are looking at moving the counting process to a larger space within City Hall so the ballots can be received, processed and tallied all in one room. According to an Assembly memorandum, the Municipal Clerk's Office is updating the "primary, secondary and new tertiary checks and balances to make sure these and all ballots are accounted for."

Assembly members Ernie Hall and Dick Traini noted the space constraint during the meeting. Both commended the clerks for how they handled the found ballots.

"The process is upright, and there's nothing nefarious going on," Traini said after the meeting. "So we move on."

According to an Assembly memorandum, the Election Commission originally rejected one of the uncounted ballots after it could not find the voter in the registration database. But the voter's eligibility was later verified, it said.

In total, 70,574 ballots were counted in the mayoral runoff election, according to the numbers presented Tuesday. Candidate Amy Demboski received 39.26 percent of the votes -- up 0.01 percent after the 58 uncounted ballots were accounted for -- and Ethan Berkowitz received 60.74 percent. He will take office July 1.

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously voted on the recertification Tuesday, with member Bill Evans absent.

It's the second recertification in as many weeks. On May 19, the Assembly voted to recertify the regular municipal election after an additional 70 ballots were found, according to an Assembly memorandum.

Two questioned ballots were originally rejected by the Election Commission, and the Municipal Clerk's Office discovered the remainder in a vault with unprocessed ballots instead of in the vault with ballots to be processed, the memorandum said.

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